TULSA, Oklahoma – Oral Roberts University is mourning the loss of former baseball player Ryan Iannelli who died in a helicopter crash Wednesday.
1st Lt. Iannelli, a pilot in the Marines, died when the helicopter he was flying in crashed during combat operations in Afghanistan.
"He was one of a kind," said ORU Head Coach Rob Walton, "Ryan will be sorely missed. He was one of us, and he was a big part of my life. He was making a difference, and he believed in the difference he was making. Our Thoughts and prayers are with his family."
The Clarksboro N. J. native played baseball all four years while he was at ORU as an outfielder and a pinch runner. Iannelli graduated from ORU in 2006.
Walton, who was also a native of New Jersey, was close to Iannelli and kept in contact with him after he graduated.
"Ryan was a great kid who from a town not far from where I grew up. He was a high energy person, very smart, and a really good teammate," said Walton. "I remember one time I was having health problems and had to leave practice, I was in the hospital and he came by with a slice of pizza from our favorite New Jersey pizza place. That's the kind of guy he was, always thinking of other people. He had a big heart, strong will; this one hurts."
According to the Gloucester County Times, Iannelli was assigned to the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Air Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force at the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, NC.