In an emotional news conference Wednesday, Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso talked about Rock Palermo III, who was killed in a plane crash on Tuesday in Cameron, along with another man, Richard Don Clements.
Palermo was a long-time attorney for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, as well as the department’s pilot. But more than that, Mancuso said, “He was our friend.”
“I don’t know how you replace that,” Mancuso said through tears. “It’s personal sometimes and this was.”
Mancuso said Palermo was “everything” to this office. “He was the best at what he did.”
He said this was about the toughest loss he could think of for the office, as well as the community.
“Rock touched many, many people,” Mancuso said, adding Palermo had actually started the aviation program at the department. “He’s one of those people you can’t replace. He was amazing.”
Calcasieu District Attorney Stephen Dwight, who had worked with Palermo and was also a friend, said, “Rock was family; he always had your back. He loved the sheriff’s department and the sheriff’s department loved him.”
The bodies of Palermo and Clements were recovered from the wreckage of the plane, which went down near Hackberry, according to Cameron Sheriff Ron Johnson.
The plane, a single-engine Cessna 182 four-seater, crashed on a small island between Hackberry and Big Lake, near Pete Seay Circle, according to authorities.
Palermo was an instructor on the flight and Clements was a student.
Both families have been notified and arrangements have not yet been announced for either of the men.
Palermo graduated from LSU with a bachelor’s degree in 1987 and graduated from LSU Law School in 1992. He was a founding partner in the law firm of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson.
In addition to his law duties and work for law enforcement, he was an FAA licensed Airline Transport Pilot with airplane, jet and helicopter ratings. He was a certified flight instructor and master scuba instructor. Palermo was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, the United States Air Force Auxiliary, and held the rank of colonel. He also served on the Lake Charles Regional Airport Authority.
Tributes poured in on social media throughout the day on Wednesday, with people recalling memories of each man and offering condolences for their families. On Palermo’s Facebook page, one said it was a “tough day for Lake Area pilots” while another said, “Blue skies and tailwinds Rock.”
Palermo is survived by his wife, Kim, and their three children.
Clements was a financial planner, husband and father. He had worked in investing and financial planning since 2002 and was with Raymond James, a global asset management group.
Prior to his career as a financial advisor, Clements worked as a trader in the energy business and as a CPA in a public accounting firm. He graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a bachelor of science in accounting.
Clements is survived by his wife, Nancy, and their two children.
The cause of the plane crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.