Bahama crash victim remembered having ‘biggest smile’
by Carol Thompson
Sunday morning, shortly after eight, Susan Sweet read a post on the Facebook page of Diego DeSantiago that said he had landed safely in Nassau, Bahamas. She wrote, “I miss you.” He “liked” her comment. Only hours after the exchange, she received a call from her daughter Jamie Zych that DeSantiago had been on the private jet that had crashed in Freeport.
The Lear 36 Executive Jet had taken off from the Bahamian capital of Nassau and crashed about 5 p.m. local time Sunday as it was coming in for a landing at Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport. Authorities believe the plane struck a crane. Weather may have also been a contributing factor.
Sweet said dozens of “RIP” messages began appearing on DeSantiago’s Facebook page that he had listed under his prophet name King Diego DaGreat. Yesterday she went to his sister’s home and confirmed he was onboard the jet with eight others, including Dr. Myles Munroe. Authorities told his family they believed DeSantiago, 38, was on the private jet, heading to a conference, Sweet said, adding that a brother of DeSantiago has departed to the Bahamas to identify his body.
Sweet said she met DeSantiago shortly after he and his family moved from the inner city of Los Angeles to Oswego, NY, a small community situated along Lake Ontario. DeSantiago enrolled in Oswego High School where he instantly became friends with Sweet’s daughter Heather Sweet, who is now Heather Lee. They were both sophomores when they met.
“She told me her new friend dressed like a gang member,” Sweet, a commissioned youth minister for the Catholic Church, said. “I said ‘bring him home.'”
Sweet said she mentored DeSantiago and he stole her heart. “I fell in love with him. He had the biggest smile. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was the light in everybody’s life.”
On her own Facebook page, Sweet wrote, “He was at my home every day and went to school with Heather. I mentored him and he stole my heart. He has been a member of our family ever since. He went into the Army then finished college and went on for his masters. He was doing work in conjunction with the United Nations and met Dr. Myles Munroe. From there he preached and traveled with Dr. Munroe all over the world.”
DeSantiago graduated from Oswego High School in 1994 and joined the U.S. Army. Sweet and her husband Ron Sweet drove to Kentucky for his graduation from the military academy. After serving in the military for a couple years, he traveled a while before settling in Colorado, Sweet said. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and started working on a master’s degree.
DeSantiago often returned to Oswego for visits, Sweet said. He returned in August, surprising Sweet at her office. He brought her flowers and she, DeSantiago and Lee went out to lunch to catch up. Sweet said she asked how did this boy she once mentored become such a force in ministering in the Kingdom of God?
“He told me there was a point in his life where he didn’t know where his life was headed,” Sweet said. “He was in school, but he was not fulfilled.” She said as DeSantiago was soul searching he went to church and got involved. It was through this that he met Dr. Munroe.
Munroe asked DeSantiago to work as a Spanish interpreter, Sweet said.
“He (DeSantiago) always traveled with Dr. Munroe,” Sweet said, so she was almost positive that he was on the jet before she had confirmation of it.
Munroe, 60, and his entourage were traveling to Grand Bahama to attend the 2014 Global Leadership Forum that he had organized. He planned to have dinner in Freeport about 90 minutes after his plane’s scheduling landing with former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, who was scheduled to speak at the event.
All nine aboard the plane were killed, including Munroe’s wife Ruth.
The Sweet family is mourning the loss of a dear friend. “He was like a son to me,” Susan Sweet said.
Images: Susan Sweet