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22-year-old Santa Fean died in Russian plane fire

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Jeremy Brooks, 22, a fishing guide from Santa Fe, was killed in a plane fire in Russia on Sunday. He was on his way to a job as an Atlantic salmon fishing guide in northwest Russia. (Photo courtesy of The Reel Life)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Jeremy Brooks of Santa Fe, a fly-fishing expert and recent college graduate who had just landed a dream job, was among the 41 people killed when a Russian airliner caught fire on Sunday.

Brooks, 22, was on his way to serve as fishing guide for Atlantic salmon in northwest Russia, according to Ivan Valdez, owner of the The Reel Life fishing shop in Santa Fe.

Valdez said he hired Brooks as a guide as soon as the then-teen got a driver’s license.

“He never had a mean bone in his body,” said Valdez, whose voice cracked as he described Brooks as more of a son than an employee. “He had it all to offer the world. I never heard a bad complaint against him.”

Brooks reportedly was the lone American to die when the Russian plane experienced problems on a flight from Moscow to Murmansk and burst into flames as it made a hard landing back in Moscow.

The pilot said the plane had lost radio communications because of a lightning strike, according to the Associated Press, but it was not clear if that precipitated the emergency landing. A flight attendant also was reported to have said there was a sharp flash soon after the flight took off.

Brooks graduated from Santa Fe Prep. Marco Rossetti, who went to Prep with Brooks, also struggled to talk about the passing of his friend. “Every single trip, just about, growing up, we’d be putting in before sunrise ’til well after sunset, sometimes through the night,” Rossetti said.

“Aside from the point of fishing, because that’s not all he is, he was the best person. He was there and had any friend’s back better than anybody.”

“I have more respect for him than any other person on this planet,” said Rossetti. “And now he’s not on this planet.”

Valdez said Brooks had just graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where he majored in environmental science.

Brooks’ job in Russia was for “one of the most prestigious places to guide in the world,” where anglers can spend up to $20,000 a week for guided fishing, Valdez said.

He identified Brooks’ employers as Ponoi Outfitters. The Ponoi or Ponoy River, located just about the Arctic Circle and which runs into the Barents Sea, has a worldwide reputation for spectacular fishing.

Brooks “was more excited than any other time in his life,” Rossetti said.

In a biographical Q&A on The Reel Life’s website, Brooks wrote that he first fly-fished on his seventh birthday on a guided trip that he asked for as his birthday present.

As to why he loves fly-fishing, Brooks wrote, “Honestly, I don’t even know how many times I’ve spent the drive back from a day on the water trying to answer this very question for myself. Although I haven’t come close to describing it perfectly, I do know that every single day I’m grateful that I picked up a fly rod when I did.

“I live two different lives, one among friends and family that floats between school in Colorado Springs and my house in Santa Fe, and one that takes place in mountains, always near water with a fly rod in hand. Each puts the other into perspective; drama with friends feels insignificant when I know that fresh fish are running the Dream Stream, and a tough day on the water is less painful when I return to the ‘real world’ and remember that fishing is simultaneously all that matters and completely pointless.”

A statement from Alex Hernández-Siegel, chaplain and associate dean at Colorado College, said Miro Kummel, Brooks’ faculty adviser, had described Jeremy as “an amiable student with a love for ecology” and one of Kummel’s most talented students, “someone who always had a smile on his face and was always there to assist his peers.”

Hernández-Siegel and another chaplain are available on the campus “to meet with anyone who wishes to spend time with us to reflect on Jeremy’s life and who may need support,” and a counseling center is also available.

“We are sending our condolences to his family and will ask how we can be of any assistance at this time,” Hernández-Siegel said.

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