Michael R. Murphy loved to fly from the time he took his first helicopter ride about 12 years ago. He then changed careers as a self-employed truck driver to pilot.
On Thursday, May 25, Mr. Murphy, 37, of Franklinville died when the medical helicopter he was flying for a training exercise crashed in Delaware.
Aviation authorities are still investigating what caused the helicopter to crash. The Eurocopter EC135 burst into flames behind a postal facility in New Castle after it took off from the Atlantic City airport that morning. Mr. Murphy, flying alone, was practicing instrument navigation needed to fly during inclement weather, said his father, Michael Murphy. He was flying in foggy and cloudy conditions, said his wife, Erika.
Erika Murphy said the two first met at P.J. Whelihan’s Pub and Restaurant in Medford. At the time, Mr. Murphy was a flight instructor. For their third date, he took her for a helicopter ride.
“He was very entertaining,” said his wife, who said her husband had an “infectious” personality that made others smile. “There was never a dull moment with Michael.”
He proposed in March 2013. That November about two dozen people attended their wedding in Las Vegas.
Mr. Murphy loved rough-housing with his boxer, Harley, that died recently, and playing or dancing with the couple’s 2-year-old son, Jamey Michael. His wife is pregnant with another boy.
“He loved taking Jamey and Harley on walks to tire them both out,” Erika Murphy said.
In a strange coincidence, Jamey was born 10 weeks premature when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia in 2015. The last papal visit to Philadelphia was when Pope John Paul II came in 1979 and Mr. Murphy was born five weeks premature then.
On Thursday, Mr. Murphy was flying for Metro Aviation, which provides air transportation for the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Previously, he flew for Telemundo and NBC 10 in Philadelphia. Prior to that, he worked for Liberty Helicopter Tours in New York, flying tourists above Manhattan or taking VIPs to special events.
He took former Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell for a ride when the NFL star was on Millionaire Matchmakers and his date confronted him about not paying child support. He once flew a QVC crew, and another time gave a lift to actress Liv Tyler.
Mr. Murphy’s favorite event, however, was a chance meeting at Atlantic City’s airport when the Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, was flying out. Mr. Murphy posed to have his picture taken with the horse, the first to win both the Triple Crown and the Breeder’s Club Classic, completing the Grand Slam of American horse racing.
As a truck driver, Mr. Murphy hauled sand and gravel between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He had hauled dirt to New York for the infield at Yankee Stadium also, his father said.
Mr. Murphy was a graduate of Edgewood Regional High School, now Winslow Township High, and earned an associate’s degree from Camden County College.
“He was very self-driven,” said Mr. Murphy’s father. When he was young, Mr. Murphy recalled that his son made a hundred calls as he was looking for a blueberry-picking job. “He was a hard worker and he wanted to pay his way.”
In addition to his wife, father, and son, Mr. Murphy is survived by his mother, Janet, and a sister.
Visitation is scheduled for Friday, June 2, from 9 a.m. to noon followed by a mass at Christ the Redeemer Parish/Assumption Church, 318 Carl Hasselhan Dr., Atco. Interment will be private at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to two funds set up to help the Murphy family. One was created by a friend, and coworker for the family. The other was created by PennSTAR. Condolences may be sent to the LeRoy P. Wooster Funeral Home & Crematory, 441 White Horse Pike, Atco, NJ 08004.