Plane crash victim lived a ‘full life,’ son says

kleslie@thetribunenews.comJune 8, 2014 

Balloon Ride581

John Warren pilots a balloon over the rural area east of Paso Robles in this picture from 2005.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The two men killed in a Paso Robles plane crash Saturday had flown together many times before, according to a family member of one of the victims.

John Warren, 66, routinely flew with Robert “Bob” Berg, 82, before the plane accident that took their lives Saturday, Warren’s son, Daniel Lopez, told The Tribune on Sunday.

Berg, a local businessman who helped to found the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation with his wife, Donna Berg, hired Warren, a former flight instructor and owner of a local hot air balloon company, to fly with him as he got too old to fly alone, Lopez said. This year was supposed to be their last year flying together because of Berg’s age.

Their arrangement ended tragically Saturday, however, when Berg’s 1939 Piper J3C-65 crashed following takeoff at a private airfield on Vineyard Drive. According to witnesses, the plane took off shortly after 10 a.m., but then banked sharply to the right and spiraled to the ground. Berg and Warren were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police believe Warren was piloting the craft at the time of the accident, and an investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.

Though there was some outside speculation that the type of plane — known for being unstable when coupled with a less-experienced pilot — could have contributed to the accident, Lopez said his father was anything but inexperienced.

“He’s been a pilot for forever,” Lopez said. “He flew everything: planes, helicopters, hot air balloons. Everything.”

Besides being a certified commercial pilot, Warren was licensed to fly most aircraft, including hot air balloons, his son said. He was the owner of Paso Robles-based Let’s Go Ballooning, which offered hot air balloon rides over local wineries.

“He took a ride in a hot air balloon one time and loved it so much, he went out and bought one and started the company,” Lopez said.

That sort of spontaneous behavior was one of his father’s defining traits, Lopez said.
Whether it was buying three llamas on a whim, flying helicopters across several states or serving in the Marines during the Vietnam War, John Warren lived his life to the fullest, his son said.

“He was the kind of guy who did everything in his life,” Lopez said.

Warren was also “meticulous about everything he did,” Lopez said, citing the time his father landed a hot air balloon in the center of a busy Montana town following weather complications.

“The local paper called it a ‘pinpoint landing,’ and he was so proud of that,” Lopez said.

Lopez said he and his two brothers, who both live out of state, had not made any plans for a local service for their father as of Sunday night, though they are considering the possibility.
He said friends of Warren will be notified if they do decide to hold a memorial.

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