Dad Killed with Son, 11, in France Attack Was Planning Surprise Birthday Party for Wife When They Returned Home
When the Copeland family got back from Europe, dad Sean planned to throw a surprise party for his wife, Kim, since she would turn 40 while they were traveling, a family friend tells PEOPLE.
Instead, Kim will be planning two funerals.
Sean, 51, and their 11-year-old son, Brodie, were killed along with dozens of others in a night of terror Thursday in Nice, France. Authorities say a truck plowed for more than a mile into a crowd that had gathered to celebrate Bastille Day, killing at least 84 and injuring more than 202. Fifty-two of those victims are in critical condition and 25 are in a coma, French officials announced.
Kim, Brodie and Sean were all together before the carnage, as they always were, friend Bill Bishop says. They were watching the fireworks – and then the bloodshed started.
“It just doesn’t seem right,” Bishop tells PEOPLE. “On vacation, having fun and celebrating something, to have someone’s life taken. It’s so fragile. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
‘The Fun Times They Had as a Family’
It had been an exciting journey: The Copelands left for Europe around July 4, for three weeks, and had traveled around the continent, Bishop says.
The family was in Barcelona and Pamplona, in Spain, before Nice, family spokeswoman Jess Davis tells PEOPLE. The vacation was partially a celebration for both Kim, who turns 40 on Monday, and Sean’s eldest son, Austin, who turned 22 on July 6.
In Spain, Sean and Austin had gone running with the bulls, which was one of Sean’s bucket list items, Bishop says.
He says that Sean was a “very hands-on father,” always doing fun stuff with Brodie in their backyard – like setting up a maze of dominoes to see what they could knock over, or blowing up fruit. They’d film it on their GoPro.
But baseball was “the most important thing in their life,” all three of them, Bishop says. Brodie played for the Hill Country Reds as a pitcher and second baseman, often spending three weekends a month at games. Before their Europe trip, the Copelands had spent a week in Panama City Beach, Florida, for a tournament.
“They were just a great family, loved baseball and loved being together and doing everything as a family,” Bishop says. “That’s what Brodie and Sean would want people to celebrate: the fun times they had as a family.”
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When Brodie wasn’t on the field, he was acting – having recently appeared in local theater productions – or else he was boating (tubing and wakeboarding) with his dad, Bishop says.
Sean, an executive for the technology and computing company Lexmark, had recently started up a bowling league with a few of the other baseball dads, Bishop says. None of them were “big bowlers,” but the Wednesday night games were a good time to relax with friends.
Sean’s hobbies were boating, baseball and his family, Bishop says: “He just really enjoyed being with Brodie, whatever it was, whatever he wanted to do. His love was being with his family.”
‘I Don’t Know If I Should Go’
Word of the deaths spread quickly through the community in Lakeway, Texas: Bishop says his family heard of the France attack from a baseball friend (his son had played with Brodie for three years).
Bishop immediately texted Sean and got no answer, but his wife called Kim and learned the news.
Though Kim and her family were all excited for their Europe trip, Bishop says she had expressed unease about traveling, in light of recent terror attacks in France and elsewhere.
Kim kept telling Bishop’s wife that something didn’t feel right, Bishop says. According to Bishop, Kim told his wife, “I don’t know if I should go.”
Bishop says he’s spoken to her since the attack Thursday night, and his wife has spoken to Kim more often than that. “She seems like she’s holding up okay,” he says. Kim is still in France, along with Sean’s two older children, Austin, 22, and Maegan, 29, from a previous marriage, who were traveling with them.
Her main concern is getting her family – and the bodies of Brodie and Sean – back to Texas, Bishop says.
“I think she just wants to get home and get her family home. That was Kim’s whole life though, those two guys, those two men.”
• With reporting by KC BAKER