Hundreds of people showed up for a Thursday night vigil to honor the UPS driver killed in Santee when a small plane crashed, engulfing his truck and two nearby homes in flames.
Steve Krueger, a UPS employee for more than 30 years and was on the verge of retirement when he died, was one of two people killed in Monday’s tragic crash.
Some of Krueger's relatives came to the event, including his brother Jeff.
"All the affection and the overwhelming response from all of you has made this much easier to deal with," he said.
It was clear that Krueger left a positive impression on everyone he knew.
"He loved his job. He always had a smile and he never complained," friend Joyce Mullinix said. "He’s just a great guy all around.”
The vigil was planned at 7 p.m. in order to give UPS workers a chance to attend the vigil after their shifts ended, NBC 7 was told. A UPS union rep said on Tuesday that a lot of shifts were covered so that workers could attend.
"Just a good ’ol guy," co-worker Adam Holsapple said describing Krueger. "Old school driver. Cared about his customers loved his job."
Organizers anticipated more than 500 attendees, and nearly that many showed up.
"He always said, 'If something ever happened to me I don’t want people upset; I want them to think about the fun times or something I did to make them laugh," Jeff Krueger said.
Attendees also paid their respects to Das and said prayers for his family and loved ones. Organizers weren't sure if any of his family members planned on showing up.
The vigil was held two blocks from the crash site to give neighbors there an emotional break from the tragedy. Even the street was closed but it didn’t stop well-wishers from creating a memorial of candles, flowers and model UPS delivery vans.
The sidewalk shrine has grown four times its original size in just a day.
Law enforcement agencies had staff on site to secure traffic control.
Santee Plane Crash
More on the East County tragedy.
Das' plane was headed to San Diego from Yuma, Arizona. It was supposed to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa, according to the flight plan, but never made it. It's unclear if the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing at Gillespie Field in Santee, which is just a few miles from where the aircraft crashed at around 12:15 p.m.
Jeff Krueger said his brother, Steve, loved his job, particularly the interactions he had with the customers along his route.
"At Christmastime, he really liked sweets and they would always bombard him with stuff," Jeff Krueger said. "They really appreciated him, and he always had fun with them. He was that kind of guy."
The news that his brother, a 61-year-old Ocean Beach resident, was struck by a plane while doing deliveries was "unbelievable," Jeff Krueger said.
"He was very much: You gotta be positive," Jeff said. "Things will always get better and don’t take life so serious that it gets you down. Have fun with things."
Steve was fond of snow and the outdoors and had just purchased a home near Mammoth Lakes, a local told NBC 7. He planned to spend much of his retirement in his new home.
Jim Leutkemeyer said Steve Krueger owned property in Ocean Beach and took great care of his tenants. He said the UPS employee’s dedication to them went as far as vacuuming the rooftops to ensure they lived in clean conditions.
Leutkemeyer, a neighbor and friend of Krueger's, added that he enjoyed the UPS worker's playful sense of humor, which he said will be missed dearly.
“I was always joking with him because he’d say, ‘Can you help me,' you know? 'I’m getting ready to start this project.’ and I’d say, ‘Oh, my back just flared up.’ So we always joked back and forth about our age,” Leutkemeyer said. “I’m going to miss that. I just can’t believe this happened to Steve.”
On Tuesday, UPS issued the following statement regarding Krueger's death.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of our driver Steve Krueger, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," the company's statement read. "Those who knew Steve said he took pride in his work, and his positive attitude and joyful laugh made the hardest days a little lighter."
"Steve was held in high regard and will be greatly missed."
The company coordinated a moment of silence in honor of Krueger at 12:14 p.m. Tuesday – 24 hours after the fatal impact. A flag outside the UPS customer service center in Kearny Mesa was lowered to half-staff in remembrance of the employee.