DALTON, Mass. — One of the three U.S. Navy sailors who died in an aircraft crash in the Philippine Sea last week grew up in western Massachusetts.

Family members say 28-year-old Navy pilot Lt. Steven Combs Jr. grew up in Dalton and graduated from St. Joseph Central High School in Pittsfield.

The C-2A “Greyhound” transport aircraft was traveling to the USS Ronald Reagan when it crashed the day before Thanksgiving. Eight people were rescued.

One of Combs’ sisters, Elizabeth Combs, says her brother was piloting the aircraft and managed to settle it in the sea, allowing for the rescue of the eight people who survived. The Navy called Combs’ actions “heroic.”

His sister says Combs was a natural athlete who played soccer, softball and baseball but had a passion for skiing.