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Ethiopian flight had special meaning for California brothers

Community mourns Mel and Bennett Riffel

(CNN) - Mel and Bennett Riffel were embarking on one last adventure before Mel's daughter was to be born in May.

The brothers from Redding, California, were killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash that left 157 dead on Sunday, and thousands in mourning and shock.

In their memory, parishioners of St. Joseph Church and School have been placing flowers at the base of a bell tower, CNN affiliate KRCR reported. The brothers attended the elementary school and their mother is the parish secretary, according to KRCR.

"The community, we've been through a lot of things this past year, this year," the church's pastor, Father Fred Gucor, told the news station. "Very supportive community, just this morning after the Mass, people are offering prayer, offering [the parents] help, anything, anything."

Mel and Bennett were the only children of Ike and Susan Riffel.

"We appreciate the outpouring of love and support from the community," the parents said through a spokesperson, according to KRCR. "We ask for continued prayers."

The Riffel brothers attended Shasta High School, where Bennett was in the school's Madrigal dinner, according to CNN affiliate KRCR.

The school's music teacher Gavin Spencer still remembers his performance.

"He was a knight in Madrigal dinner his senior year, and people were scared to death of him because he was a big guy, he had long dark hair and he did not smile, he had the perfect stone cold knight face," Spencer told KRCR. "Kids were very intimidated by him, but he was one of the nicer kids."

Illinois military captain died in crash

Antoine Lewis, from Matteson, Illinois, was also on flight ET302, according to CNN affiliate WLS.

Lewis was one of nine siblings, and joined the Army after high school, becoming a military captain, his family told WLS. He was stationed in Ottawa, Canada, and was going on vacation to Ethiopia.

"He was also stationed in South Korea, he was a military rat, he loved it, he was moving up through the military," his father, Rodney Lewis told WLS. "He went in as an enlisted man and he got his undergraduate degree and his graduate degree."

He leaves behind his wife and 15-year-old son, the news station reported.


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