HOUSTON (AP) — A man and his 11-year-old son from the Austin area were among the dozens of people killed during the truck attack in Nice, France, relatives said Friday.
Sean Copeland, 51, and his son, Brodie, were vacationing with their family when they were killed Thursday in what French authorities have described as a terror attack. The Copelands were traveling in Europe in part to celebrate the birthdays of Copeland’s wife and another son, said family friend Jess Davis.
“We are heartbroken and in shock over the loss of Brodie Copeland, an amazing son and brother who lit up our lives, and Sean Copeland, a wonderful husband and father,” the family said in a statement released by Davis. “They are so loved.”
Davis said the Copelands’ vacation began in Spain, with the running of the bulls in Pamplona and flamenco dancing in Barcelona.
“They had been celebrating Bastille Day in Nice when this unthinkable and unfair act of terror took Sean and Brodie from the world far too soon,” Davis said in an email to The Associated Press. “It is a terrible loss.”
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Officials with the U.S. State Department will accompany Sean Copeland’s brothers when they fly to Nice to bring his family home, Davis said. Sean Copeland’s wife, Kim, and his 22-year-old son, Austin, and 29-year-old daughter, Maegan, also were on the trip. Austin turned 22 last week; Kim Copeland’s 40th birthday is Monday.
Davis said the surviving family members were overwhelmed and wouldn’t be talking to reporters. She said the family was from Lakeway, about 20 miles northwest of Austin.
In a second statement released by Davis on Friday evening, the Copeland family said they were thankful for the support and prayers they have received from friends and strangers.
“Our hearts go out to all of those in France and elsewhere who have loved ones lost or injured in this event, and we pray for each of you,” the family said.
The statement also said that the family would not be offering any further public comment at this time and asked for people to respect their privacy.
The State Department has said at least two Americans were among the dead but declined to release their names, citing privacy concerns.
Sean Copeland was a vice president at a software division of Lexmark Inc., a business automation firm. Lexmark spokesman Jerry Grasso said Copeland was “a terrific leader” and a phenomenal person.
The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reported that Sean Copeland also helped coach Brodie’s youth baseball team.
Aaron Cable, head of player development for the Hill Country Baseball Club, said Brodie was “just a one-of-kind kid” who aspired to be an actor or comedian. Brodie recently completed fifth grade at Lakeway Elementary School, where he was in the honor choir and active in athletics, Principal Sam Hicks said in a statement.
Cable said he spent a week with the boy and his parents at a baseball tournament in Florida before they left for Europe.
“He’s popular, he’s funny, he’s mature, he’s fun to be around,” Cable said. “You could have adult conversations with him when he was 9 years old.”
Cable also said Sean Copeland was a great father.
“He would do whatever he needed to do to make sure Brodie got baseball lessons, acting lessons, and everything he ever needed or wanted,” Cable said. “He was a good guy who cared about his kids.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that every attack was tragic but “this latest one hits close to home.” The French flag was flown over the Texas Governor’s mansion in Austin in remembrance.
“Now, more than ever, we must unite with our allies around the globe to end the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism that threatens our freedoms and civilization itself,” he said.
This story has been updated to correct attribution for Sean Copeland’s baseball coaching.