The Sunriver man who died Saturday when his seaplane crashed in the Deschutes River was highly ambitious in his career and personal life.
Kevin Padrick, 63, co-founded Obsidian Finance Group, a financial advisory and investment firm in Lake Oswego, after a long career as an attorney in Portland. He lived in Sunriver for the past 20 years and worked remotely for the finance group.
Friends and colleagues remembered Padrick’s passion for aviation. He flew stunt planes, gliders and seaplanes. He was also an accomplished flight instructor.
“He was not only a pilot but an extremely enthusiastic pilot,” said David Brown, who founded Obsidian Finance Group with Padrick.
Brown and Padrick met in 1980, when they worked together for the Portland law firm Miller Nash Graham & Dunn. They became close friends.
Padrick taught Brown’s daughter how to fly a plane, and Padrick would take fellow employees at Obsidian Finance Group on plane rides, Brown said Tuesday.
“We used to joke whose turn is it to fly upside down,” Brown said.
Padrick was well-known in the Oregon legal and business community, and many were shocked to hear about his death, Brown said.
“We are just stunned,” he said.
Padrick made national headlines in 2010 for being involved in a major First Amendment case, Obsidian Finance Corp. v. Cox.
A blogger, Crystal Cox, wrote several blogs disparaging Padrick and Obsidian Finance Group. Cox claimed Padrick and his company were involved in bribery, tax fraud, money laundering, payoffs and theft, according to her posts.
Padrick sued Cox and a federal district court judge in Portland ruled in Padrick’s favor, concluding that a blogger is not automatically a journalist who can use freedom of the press rulings to escape a lawsuit. Padrick and his company were awarded $2.5 million.
But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the federal court ruling and determined that bloggers have the same freedoms and protections as journalists.
In his personal life, Padrick was an avid outdoor enthusiast. He was an Eagle Scout who went on to have leadership roles in the Boy Scouts. And he was a triathlete and hiker who completed the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago.
“When Kevin had interests they were always big interests,” Brown said. “If he decided to focus on something, he focused on it in a major way.”
Aviation was always one of Padrick’s main interests. He spoke in April at the Columbia Aviation Association in Aurora about an upcoming flight to Minnesota in his 1996 Maule M-7 single-engine seaplane to get amphibious floats installed. He discussed flight planning and issues.
On Saturday, Padrick and a passenger, Johannes Noordwijk, 69, of Sunriver, took off from the Sunriver Airport in the Maule seaplane and failed to gain altitude. Padrick attempted to land in the Deschutes River for unknown reasons, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Noordwijk was able to escape the aircraft after the crash and was later helped to shore by Sunriver Fire and Rescue, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Padrick’s body was later found by Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue divers.
While the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the crash, it was clear to witnesses that something went wrong during takeoff.
“It was an emergency landing. Clear as day,” said Jeff Reese, a pilot and neighbor of Padrick.
Reese saw the seaplane crash from his nearby home. Reese watched as the plane only got about 75 feet off the ground and then splashed into the water.
“I saw he was heading for the river,” Reese said. “My heart just sank.”
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