Gardner, Kansas, couple dies in Missouri plane crash

(Family photo)

BRANSON WEST, Mo. (KCTV5/AP) - Authorities say a couple from Gardner, Kansas, died when their small plane crashed in southwest Missouri.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader on Monday identified the victims as 52-year-old Keith Curtis and 45-year-old Dawn Curtis.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said their single-engine Piper Cherokee went down Sunday night in a pasture about 1 mile northwest of the Branson West Municipal Airport.

The family released this statement:"Our hearts are clearly broken as we are all trying to process this tragedy. Dawn Mustain Curtis and Keith Curtis, Sr. of Garner, Kansas, had just gotten married November 11, 2017 after several years of dating. They were the type of people that made you happier when you were in their presence.

They loved to travel, were adventurous, and loved life, loving it all the more together. They frequently traveled to the Springfield and Branson areas via their private plane and had journeyed to Branson West yesterday to begin a four-day, pre-Christmas family vacation.

Their parents, Norman and Vickey Eagleton, of Belton, Missouri, arrived in Branson yesterday afternoon for that vacation and will remain here until the many details involved can be attended to properly. We would like to thank the Stone and Taney County Sheriff Departments for their compassionate, prompt communication with us, the rescue personnel who responded and the staff at Subway in Hollister, Missouri who stayed way past closing last night to accommodate us in our grief.

Also, the witnesses who privately shared their accounts with us nearly immediately through the power of Facebook. Tragedies like this remind all of us that life is precious and short and should be cherished at every turn. We will get through this with the power of faith and the love of family and friends, one day at a time. Joyelle Low Buckley, family member."Relatives said in the statement that the couple was married on Nov. 11 after dating for several years. They were on their way to Branson for a four-day, pre-Christmas family vacation.

A longtime friend and neighbor to Keith told us he loved being up in the air. According to Keith’s Facebook, he got his pilot’s license in August.

“He’d do anything for anybody. You know if you called him, he’d come and get you. If you needed money, he’d give it to you,” said an emotional neighbor, John Walterman.

Witnesses told KYTV that the plane was flying low and appeared to be having problems with its motor before there was a boom as it crashed.

Investigators combed the scene, looking for clues about what happened.

“We’re looking for pilot qualifications, background, medical,” said NTSB investigator Chris Hatch. “We’re going to do an examination of the aircraft. We are try to go into the maintenance history of the aircraft, and then finally the environment: weather, traffic control, radar information, that kind of stuff.”

The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.

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