An Austin-area father and son with roots to North Texas who were vacationing in Europe with their family were among the 84 victims of the deadly attack in Nice, France, relatives said Friday.
The Copeland family from Lakeway, Texas was on a European vacation that began in Spain with the running of the bulls in Pamplona. They were celebrating the Bastille Day in Nice Thursday night when a family friend said the unthinkable happened.
Family friend Jess Davis confirmed 51-year-old Sean Copeland and his 11-year-old son, Brodie Copeland, died when driver of a large white truck barreled down the crowded promenade, killing at least 84 people.
"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 Copeland family said in a statement. "Our lives, along with so many others' in France, have been changed forever."
Friends with Hill County Baseball shared a photo of Brodie Copeland enjoying the French Riviera.
"Nobody deserves this type of fate, especially not such a wonderful family. You are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. Rest in peace, Sean and Brodie. You will be remembered by many," the organization said on Facebook.
Before moving to Lakeway, the Copelands lived in the North Texas town of Prosper, north of Frisco. The Austin-American Statesman reported Sean Copeland was the vice president of an Austin software company.
Tom Morris got to know the Copelands through the Plano West High School football program. Both men were part of the booster club. Sean also coached.
"Brody was kind of our little mascot. He was dressed up in a werewolf costume," Morris said. "He did whatever he had to do to get everybody fired up."
Morris was following the family's trip overseas. He shared photos of the Copelands' stop in Spain. The last post he saw on Facebook was of the Copelands checking into the airport in Nice.
After Morris saw the news of the attack, he messaged Sean's wife, Kim, who was also there with Sean's two children from a previous marriage.
"I happened to speak to her sister later when some of the news started to come out in disbelief that we were told that she just been called and Shaun and Brody had been killed in that activity in Nice," Morris said.
The town of Prosper will hold a candlelight vigil for the Copeland family on Sunday evening at 8 p.m. at the Frontier Park Pavillion.
Davis said the surviving family members remain in Nice and are "overwhelmed and don't want to deal with media inquiries."
The state department will accompany Sean Copeland's brother to Nice to bring the family home.
The attack happened as a few thousand revelers gathered in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day and watch the fireworks. The suspect drove about a mile down the promenade and then got out of the vehicle and started shooting. Officers said the truck was loaded with more weapons and hand grenades.
Police killed the suspect in an exchange of gunfire. He's been identified as Muhammed Boulel. Authorities recovered papers from inside the truck that indicate he's a French citizen of Tunisian decent.
Witnesses said bodies were everywhere. A number of children are among the dead and the French president said at least 50 people are still fighting for their life.
The attack rocked a nation still dealing with the aftermath of attacks in November in Paris that killed 130 and in January of 2015 that killed 17.
President Obama is condemning what he said "appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France." He added, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed."
Mr. Obama also offered French officials any assistance that they may need to investigate the attack or bring those responsible to justice.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also ordered the French flag to be flown over the governor's mansion in remembrance of the Copeland family and others killed in the attack.
"While every heinous attack like this is tragic, this latest one hits close to home. Cecilia and I ask that Texans join us in praying for all of the victims, and especially the Copeland family as they mourn the loss of a devoted father and loving son. 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 in a statement.