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CARMICHAEL — Loved ones say a Carmichael couple was killed Sunday when their plane struggled after takeoff from the Petaluma Municipal Airport.

Richard Bristow was a pillar of the Sacramento region’s real estate scene for decades. His legacy loomed large, even past retirement seven years ago.

Now the passion friends say he funded with real estate has taken the Carmichael man from everything he loved.

“I was shocked. I mean, I didn’t… I knew he liked to fly. I know that he had built his own planes and I know he had some issues with it a few years ago,” said friend Greg Varozza. “But you never expect anybody to have that kind of a thing… I thought it was a joke at first.”

Loved ones say Bristow and his wife, Sue, were killed Sunday when their single-engine Van’s RV-6 struggled after takeoff from Petaluma Municipal Airport and appears to have crashed as Richard tried to return to the tarmac.

“Pilots train that if you have engine trouble after takeoff, you try to turn back. But you can easily stall the plane and I’m guessing that that may have been what happened,” said the Bristows’ friend Dean Rinker.

When Rinker was learning from him years ago, the men took to the skies in Richard Bristow’s Mooney. Before Bristow shared his love of flying with Rinker, the successful real estate agent mentored him on the ground in his Keller-Willams office in Fair Oaks.

As a young agent, Varozza says Richard Bristow told him, “not to sit down and relax. To treat it like a business and work it.” He told FOX40 he can’t believe that dynamic spirit is gone.

At the Bristow home, a mat at the front door welcomes visitors with a joke: “A pilot and a normal person live here.”

“It’s sad to see somebody die, you never want to see that. It’s a little bit better knowing that they died doing what they loved truly the most and that’s flying,” Varozza said. “But we’re gonna miss him and Sacramento real estate, Sacramento in general, is not quite as good now because he’s gone.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.