Global Data Systems Executive Robert “Vaughn” Crisp II Killed In Peach Bowl Plane Crash

“He could talk to anybody. He could make anyone comfortable. If you had a difficult customer, he could smooth it out. In 20 years I never heard anyone say a bad word about him and that’s rare in our industry,” said Jason Manley, longtime friend of Robert “Vaughn” Crisp II.


Condolences are pouring in for Robert “Vaughn” Crisp II, a beloved executive with MSP Global Data Systems, who was killed in a plane crash while en route to a college football bowl game last week.

“He could talk to anybody. He could make anyone comfortable. If you had a difficult customer, he could smooth it out,” Jason Manley, a longtime friend, who is now a senior account manager at Technologent in Dallas, told CRN. “In 20 years I never heard anyone say a bad word about him and that’s rare in our industry.”

CRN has reached out to Global Data Systems for comment.

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The two spent long hours driving through Texas and Oklahoma in the 1990s selling tech solutions, with Manley on sales and Crisp as an engineer.

“He had a very innate ability to foresee what customers were doing inside data centers,” Manley said. “He had done that at every job he had been at.”

Whether it was forcing a backfire to startle passengers, or a bit of good-natured ribbing directed at the locals they encountered, Crisp made the long hours on the road together more bearable by bringing his sense of humor along for the ride.

“It hit hard,” Manley said of the moment he learned of his friend’s death. “I was looking at the news of the crash and I said, ‘Why’s Vaughn’s picture there?’ Then it hit me. I couldn’t believe it.”

Friends and loved ones recalled Crisp’s “witty personality” as well as his giving, jovial nature in dozens of posts to an online memorial set up in his honor. Crisp is expected to be laid to rest following a celebration Mass on Friday at St. Ann Catholic Church & Holy Spirit Chapel in Louisiana.

“(I)f he liked you, he loved you,” read the executive’s obituary. “Vaughn’s sense of humor and love of life was contagious to those around him.”

Crisp, 59, was vice president of operations with Global Data Systems in Lafayette, La. – No. 422 on the CRN Solution Provider 500 -- where he had worked since 2009, as part of a 20-year career in sales, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“He had an affection for muscle cars and loud music while driving,” his obituary stated. “Vaughn was a huge LSU football fan; he never missed a game whether he was at the game or watching it on TV. His greatest love however was that of his family. Vaughn will be greatly missed by so many that loved him.”

Crisp, who was flying to watch the LSU Tigers take on Oklahoma Sooners in the Peach Bowl on Saturday, left behind a wife, a son, two stepdaughters and a stepson.

Injured in the crash was Crisp’s colleague, Stephen “Wade” Berzas, 37, who suffered burns to 75-percent of his body, according to doctors. Berzas, who was vice president of sales at Global Data Systems, was conscious when he arrived at the Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, but has not been able to communicate with officials because he requires a breathing tube, doctors told reporters. He is expected to face a long recovery, they said.

Berzas led the company’s growth in selling communications solutions to the oil and gas industry, since joining Global Data Systems in 2012.

Five people were lost when the Piper Cheyenne II crashed Saturday. Killed were pilot Ian Biggs as well as passengers Crisp; Carley McCord, 30; along with Gretchen Vincent, 51; and her son, 15-year-old Michael "Walker" Vincent.

NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said Biggs had 1,531 total hours of flight time, which was recorded in his November medical report, however it was not clear how many of those hours were in a Cheyenne II. Investigators told reporters the plane was registered to a local company. According to his LinkedIn profile, Biggs had been Global Data Systems’ pilot and aircraft manager since 2001.

Landsberg told reporters the plane – which was airborne for just over a minute after it took off from Lafayette Regional Airport – left a debris field that stretched 700 feet, from the plane’s impact near the post office into a lot nearby.

He said investigators are looking at the aircraft’s records which show it last underwent maintenance on Oct. 16. Prior to the crash, the Piper’s last flight was a 40-minute trip from Houston to Lafayette on December 18, Landsberg said. Biggs was the pilot for that flight as well.

Landsberg said the plane can carry between six and eight passengers.

“We don’t know what happened at this point,” he said. “That will be part of the investigation.”

Landsberg said while most parts of the plane are past recovery, one piece called annunciator panel which contains the aircraft’s warning indicators appears to still be intact.

“They can examine the lights and the condition of the lights and that will help determine what was happening at the time,” he said. “The aircraft climbed to about 900 feet and seemed to be following the departure path… at the 900-foot level, the aircraft started a left turn and a descent.”

He said the Piper was in a “descending left spiral” and once it dropped below 700 feet, air traffic control radioed the pilot, warning him. Landsberg said there was no response and no distress call back to the tower prior to the impact.

“At this point we’re not aware that the pilot keyed the microphone,” Landsberg said. “They have a button on one part of the yoke that literally all it requires you to do is press a button, but if that did not happen there will be no audio other than the outbound audio from the controller.”

He said the NTSB has found six witnesses to the crash, one of whom said the landing gear was up when it happened. They have also recovered video of the plane’s fall from a surveillance camera. Landsberg said they are looking for additional witnesses, however preliminary findings suggest the Piper remained in one piece until the crash and did not break apart in the air.