Stephen W. Merritt, the president of the service organization Bahamas Habitat, died Dec. 17, from injuries he suffered in a single-engine airplane accident near Louisburg, North Carolina.
Merritt, 70, was a certificated flight instructor and manager of the Triangle North Executive Airport in Louisburg. He was flying alone in a Cessna 150C at the time of the accident, which took place Dec. 16, WRAL.com reported. The NTSB has not yet released a preliminary report on the accident.
Bahamas Habitat, the organization Merritt helped to create, brought together general aviation pilots and aviation industry professionals to fly numerous and varied missions to the islands, providing humanitarian outreach to residents of the Bahamas, Haiti, and Mexico. Working with Bahamas Methodist Habitat, the organization’s volunteers deliver disaster relief and medical, economic, housing, and other services.
Family members and friends exchanged Facebook messages expressing shock and grief over the loss of a man who they described as an outstanding pilot and mentor, and a kind and funny person.
Merritt celebrated his seventieth birthday Dec. 14, and marked the occasion by asking for donations to the Caribbean Animal Rescue Effort. His friends exceeded the $1,000 goal within two days.
“The first time I flew to the Bahamas, it was out of curiosity and a sense of adventure to go to a beautiful place in my airplane,” Merritt said on the Bahamas Habitat website. “Once there, I was introduced to the mission of Bahamas Methodist Habitat in providing disaster relief and substandard housing repair. Through multiple visits in the last seven years I have come to understand more about the people of the Bahamas and how, by using aviation, I might be able to be of assistance in supporting the missions and ministries underway on the island of Eleuthera…I find it very rewarding to be able to make use of my skills and aircraft to provide assistance where most needed.”
A funeral service will take place Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. at Cary First United Methodist Church, 117 S. Academy St., Cary, North Carolina, 27511. Gifts may be sent to Able Flight, Bahamas Habitat, or the Steve Merritt Aviation Scholarship Fund. Checks may be written directly to the organization and mailed to 103 Dumbarton Court, Cary, North Carolina, 27511.