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Levittown Marine killed in training flight

First Lt. Shawn Nice, 26, a Levittown native, was a Marine officer training in Pensacola, Fla., to be a naval flight officer.

First Lt. Shawn Nice, 26, a Levittown native, was a Marine officer training in Pensacola, Fla., to be a naval flight officer.

He had a degree in electrical engineering.

He and his wife, Kimberly, were expecting their first child.

Nice was on a routine training flight on a T-39N Sabreliner out of Pensacola when it crashed in dense forest in northern Georgia on Monday.

He was one of four killed in the crash. The twin-engine jet nearly struck a house when it went down, according to authorities, but no one on the ground was hurt.

The identities of the four victims were released Wednesday afternoon after their bodies were recovered from the smoldering wreckage outside Blue Ridge, Ga., near the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, a Navy spokesman said.

Also a trainee on the flight was Navy Ensign Zachary Eckhart, 25, of Orefield, north of Allentown. The pilot was retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles McDonald, 67, of Cantonment, Fla. The flight instructor was Marine Capt. Jason Paynter, 38, of Pensacola.

April Knorr, Nice's only sibling, described her brother in glowing terms between sobs in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

"I couldn't have chosen a better brother," Knorr, 30, of Doylestown, said. "I couldn't be prouder of how Shawn lived his life and the man that he is. He truly embodied everything that the Marines stand for."

The crash is still under investigation, said Navy Lt. Brett Dawson, spokesman for the Navy's Air Training Command headquarters in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The crash sparked a large brush fire, and the site remained too hot for investigators until Wednesday morning, when they finally were able to enter the main area of debris, Dawson said.

Nice was assigned to Training Squadron 86 at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

He grew up in the North Park section of Levittown and graduated from Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Fairless Hills, his sister said.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical science from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, where he met his future wife, Knorr said.

A closed-door service for the men will be held Friday at the Aviation Memorial Chapel at the naval air station, Dawson said.

Nice's parents traveled to Pensacola after they were informed of their son's death. Knorr and her husband, Stephen, were preparing for a flight Thursday morning to Florida.