KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Utah State Board of Education member, his wife and two of their children died Friday morning and another child was hurt when their small plane crashed while taking off from a relative's grass airstrip in southwest Missouri, authorities said.
Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Kinder said witnesses reported that the Beechcraft A-36 got about 100 feet off the ground before stalling in a rural area near the town of Huggins. C. Mark Openshaw, 43, a member of the Utah education board since 2008, and his family were returning to their Provo, Utah, home after visiting relatives.
Kinder identified the other victims as Openshaw's wife, Amy, 43; their 15-year-old son, Tanner; and 12-year-old daughter, Ellie. The couple's 5-year-old son was taken to a Springfield-area hospital in serious condition. Openshaw, a pilot who served on the Provo Municipal Airport Board, has two other surviving children.
Steve Gleason, the manager of the Provo Airport, described Openshaw as a "very experienced pilot," adding that he was "meticulous in the way he took care of his plane."
"He was just always happy and energetic and just a great guy," Gleason said. "It is a sad day for us."
Roy Burgess, a family friend who lives next to Mark Openshaw's parents in southwest Missouri, told KYTV that he walked outside to watch the takeoff and that Openshaw's mother and sister were on the highway waving at the plane.
"And I never did see it get above the trees," Burgess said. "All I can say is, 'I'm sorry; I'm sorry it happened. I'm going to miss them. They're good friends of mine. It's a tragic thing for this community. They're well known here.'"
Burgess didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Openshaw, who won a second four-year school board term in 2012, served as the chairman of the Law and Licensing Committee. Utah State Board of Education Chairman David Crandall praised Openshaw in a written statement, calling him "deeply passionate about Utah's public schools" and describing his death as "a significant loss to our community."
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining 18 months of Openshaw's term, with the consent of the Utah Senate. Herbert said Openshaw's service to the board was "exemplary."
Openshaw, a Brigham Young University graduate, also was involved in agriculture and ranching operations. Additionally, he was the co-founder and president of AirComUSA, a Provo-based telecommunications business that provides Internet faxing services.
Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials said the agencies are investigating the crash.
Associated Press writer Kareem Copeland in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.