HAIKU, Maui (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui man was one of the 30 Americans killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. According to friends, Kraig Vickers of Haiku died when insurgents shot down the military chopper. Vickers was a 1992 graduate of Maui High School.
Friends remembered Vickers as a big man with a big heart.
Childhood friend Mike Labuanan of Wailuku met Vickers in intermediate school, and stayed in touch with him throughout the years. He was looking forward to seeing his friend, who was planning to return to the islands next year.
"We e-mailed a few times several weeks ago," Labuanan said, "and he let me know that he was having another child and moving back to Oahu."
Vickers was married to former University of Hawaii wahine basketball player Nani Flores. The Vickers and their children lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Moses Goods III grew up with Vickers, and remembers the fun-loving kid he played with in the forest near Haiku.
"He was Rambo," Goods said. "He was the kid who goes into the forest and swings from trees and that kind of stuff."
Labuanan said it didn't surprise him that Vickers joined the Navy.
"Kraig is real strong, real smart," he said. "And he always wanted to do something challenging, so when he said he was going into the Navy, it was only right. It kinda fit his personality."
"He was a big man. He was a pretty large individual," said another childhood friend, Darrett Schoeppner from his home in Wailuku. "But if you knew Kraig, or people who've known Kraig -- nicest guy possible. Highest Christian values. Put his family and his friends above everything else. And obviously, and ultimately, put himself first for his country."
"My family was neighbors to his family," said Goods. "In fact, his family helped my family out in a time of need, so I knew them very, very well. Very good family."
The Maui News reports that he was a Navy bomb disposal team member. This was the single deadliest loss for U.S. troops since the war in Afghanistan started. Most of those killed were Navy SEALS.
"You wanted to be around someone like Kraig," Schoeppner said. "And I think you became a better person being around Kraig and knowing Kraig."
"I will just remember Kraig as a fun-loving person that put his family and friends before himself," said Labuanan.