"It is by far the most pain, angst and terror and just darkest time of my life," said Steven Ensminger, Jr. of wife Carley McCord's death

By Joelle Goldstein
December 30, 2019 01:10 PM

The husband of the sports reporter who tragically died in a Lousiana plane crash on Saturday is opening up about the anguish he is currently experiencing after missing his wife’s final messages.

Steven Ensminger Jr. told Sports Illustrated that Carley McCord texted and called him that morning before the fatal flight but explained that he could not answer either message because he was at work.

Those messages would end up being McCord’s last as the WDSU sports reporter, 30, was one of five victims who were killed in the crash near the Lafayette Regional Airport.

“I don’t have my phone and she sends me a message saying she loved me,” recalled Ensminger Jr., the son of Steve Ensminger, who is the offensive coordinator for the Louisiana State University football team. “I was in and out of a nightmare, not being able to tell what was real and what wasn’t.”

The loss was so traumatic for Ensminger Jr., 30, who works as a chemical operator at a Lousiana nitrogen facility, that his family members rushed him to the hospital, where he was given sedatives to cope with his physical and emotional heartbreak.

“I can remember laying in the hospital bed repeating myself saying it wasn’t real and then one of the hardest things I’m dealing with is that I missed her text and I missed her call,” he told Sports Illustrated, adding that he would have driven McCord to the game in Atlanta but he was unable to get off of work.

“It is by far the most pain, angst and terror and just darkest time of my life and I honestly don’t know how long it will last because I still don’t believe it,” Ensminger Jr. continued. “I don’t want to believe it.”

Carley McCord and Steve Ensminger Jr.
Carley McCord/Instagram

“These words are the hardest words I’ve ever had to speak. She will always be part of my life. I’m torn and struggling but I knew she would tell me to be strong,” he added. “I love her. I miss her so much it hurts. I wish she was here with me.”

While he was in the hospital, Ensminger Jr. said he spoke on the phone with his dad, who offered some words of support and love to his son before LSU beat Oklahoma in the college football playoff game, 63-28.

“The one voice that got on the phone with me that was clear and strong and supportive and confident while I was laying in that bed was my dad right before he walked out for warm-ups,” he recalled. “I could barely speak.”

“I couldn’t hold myself together and he said, ‘Son, you will get through this, it’s what we do. We face the darkest times in our lives and it’s what we do, we get through it. And I will take care of you and I’ll be there for you to keep you strong. You’re my one and only son, and my namesake and I love you and I can promise you we will get through this,’ ” he added.

Carley McCord
Carley McCord/Instagram

On Saturday, McCord’s employer, WDSU, confirmed the news of her death in a statement. “It is with broken hearts that we share that WDSU lost a beloved member of our team today. Our hearts are with the McCord and Ensminger families at this time,” the news outlet wrote on Twitter.

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“We are devastated by the loss of such an amazing talent and valued member of our WDSU family,” WDSU President and General Manager, Joel Vilmenay, said in a statement to the news outlet. “Carley’s passion for sports journalism and her deep knowledge of Louisiana sports, from high school to the professional ranks, made her an exceptional journalist. As we reflect on her impressive body of work, we offer our deepest condolences to her family.”

The New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, two teams McCord had worked for as an in-game host, also issued a joint statement, praising her for her “utmost professionalism.”

During Saturday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, the Pelicans held a moment of silence for McCord, and her death was mourned by Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas.

“So sad to hear the news about Carley McCord she was always very excited and happy,” Thomas wrote. “The worst part is I saw her reporting yesterday as I was leaving home in the parking lot. Really sad, life is so short really wish I could do something.”

McCord was born and raised in Baton Rouge, and was a graduate of Northwestern State University and Louisiana State University, according to WDSU. She was also the first runner-up in the Miss Louisiana competition in both 2011 and 2012 and auditioned for The Bachelor in 2013, reported the New York Times.

A spokesperson for the Lafayette Fire Department previously told PEOPLE that the plane was taking off from the airport, on its way to Atlanta, when it crashed around 9:20 a.m. on Saturday morning.

One person on board survived the crash and was taken to a local hospital, along with three bystanders who were injured.

The crash occurred in an “open field” next to a local post office, the spokesperson said, and caused two fires that were “quickly extinguished.” A cause for the crash has yet to be identified but no distress call was made by the plane before the crash, according to CNN.

Authorities in Lafayette identified the victims of the deadly crash as McCord, pilot Ian E. Biggs, 51, Robert Vaughn Crisp II, 59, Gretchen D. Vincent, 51, and Michael “Walker” Vincent, according to the Times.

As the Advocate noted, many of the victims had ties to local family-owned technology company Global Data Systems.