Manhattan Doctor, K-State Fundraiser Killed In Oklahoma Plane Crash

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW)-- A retired Manhattan doctor and Kansas State University employee were killed in a deadly plane crash near Tulsa Sunday.

Chris Gruber, 40, the Director of Development for K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, was one of the victims. Gruber was an employee of the KSU Foundation who played an integral part in fundraising for research, projects, scholarships, equipment, etc. He had been with the staff of the KSU Foundation for 8.5 years.

K-State officials said Monday that grief counselors were being made available for his co-workers.

Gruber posted a photo of a plane on Twitter Sunday with the message, "My ride to Tulsa." Click here to see the post.

“He led a team of people who are the public face of our college in many ways…He was very much a family man. He has three young children and a wonderful wife. His sister is actually a veterinarian and is on our faculty as a pathologist so there’s a lot of closeness with Mr. Gruber and the College of Veterinary Medicine,” said Dr. Ralph Richardson, Dean of K-State’s College of Veterinary medicine. “It’s hard on everybody. People liked Chris. They admired him. He looked out for them so it’s hard. We have people that are grieving; we have people who are feeling loss…. But we’re going to take one day at a time and we’re going to honor Chris’ memory.”

The plane was registered to Dr. Ronald Marshall, 71, a well known retired physician from Manhattan who specialized in obstetrics & gynecology, but officials hadn't confirmed him as a victim in the crash as of Monday afternoon.

Marshall's family members and friends were mourning his passing at his home Monday but told WIBW that they had not yet received any official notification of his death from authorities. They declined an interview but confirmed that it was Dr. Marshall's plane that went down and that he was the pilot.

"Any time a life is lost, it’s going to touch the lives of others. Dr. Marshall was a long term physician in the Manhattan community and I’m sure he was loved by many, many people. I’ve already spent time talking with people who said, ‘Yes, he delivered our child. Yes, he was my doctor.’ So it hurts the whole community when something like this happens," Dr. Richardson added. He said the victims were family friends. Richardson expects a memorial service to be held at some point to honor Chris Gruber.

According to the FAA, the single-engine aircraft departed Tulsa International Airport around 5:50 Sunday night en route to Manhattan, where it was scheduled to land just after 7 PM. The plane crashed inside the city limits of Collinsville, a suburb about 30 minutes northeast of Tulsa. It dropped off of FAA radar at 5:52 p.m.

The plane reportedly crashed into a house neighbors say was vacant and caused a small fire. No one on the ground was injured.

The FAA is investigating the crash along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

"What we’ve got is basically an impact crater, post crash fire and a lot of scattered small parts. That’s kind of an indication that when the aircraft hit the ground, it was really out of control and at high speeds," said NTSB Investigator Craig Hatch. He said that there was no distress call from Dr. Marshall's plane before it crashed, only routine communications. He expected a preliminary report to be on the NTSB's website in the next week. It typically takes 9-10 months for a factual report and another 60 days after that for the probable cause of the accident to be released, Hatch told reporters during a press conference near the scene of the plane wreck.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that it has received two bodies from the crash site. Spokeswoman Amy Elliot told WIBW Monday that the dead have yet to be scientifically identified.

Dr. Ronald Marshall's twin brother, Rod Marshall, told the Omaha World-Herald that he had been in the Tulsa area Sunday attending a gun show with his brother. The two had dinner after the show, then Rod Marshall got in his car to return home to Beatrice, Nebraska and Dr. Ronald Marshall- known as Dr. Ron- boarded his plane with Gruber to fly back to Manhattan.

Ronald Marshall registered his plane in Nebraska, where he owned farm land, his brother said.

This is the second tragic airplane incident involving Ron Marshall. In March of 2004, his 31-year-old son, Scott, jumped without a parachute from a plane flown by Dr. Marshall, falling 2000 feet to his death in Geary County. Scott Marshall's body was discovered in a field 10 miles southeast of Junction City. He was a graduate of Manhattan High School where a memorial fund designated to the wrestling program was set up in his name. He went on to graduate from Kansas State University, where he played on the football team. After college, he traveled the world and was a professional scuba diving instructor, teaching in places like Puerto Rico, Palau and the Maldives. Officials say it was never fully understood why Scott Marshall jumped to his death from the airplane.

"This is a horrible tragedy this family has to endure once again. Back in 2004, we dealt with the death of their son, Scott and now the family has to go through this and this is absolutely horrifying for a family to have to go through once again. Our hearts here from Geary County go out to the Marshall family and God bless every one of them," said Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf.

This is the also second fatal plane crash within the past year that has left the K-State family in mourning.

Ron Bramlage, 45, Becky Bramlage, 43, and their children- 15-year-old Brandon, 13-year-old Boston,11-year-old Beau and 8-year-old Roxanne, died when their private aircraft crashed in a remote area near Lake Wales, Florida Thursday, June 7, 2012.

They were traveling from the Bahamas back to their Junction City home when the single engine plane went down in a swampy area shortly after noon. Ron Bramlage was the pilot.

Pieces of the aircraft were scattered over a four-mile area in rough terrain.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the crash. Preliminary findings were released in late June 2012, indicating that the plane quickly began losing altitude after changing its flight path to avoid bad weather.

Ron Bramlage was a prominent philanthropist and businessman in Junction City and Manhattan area. Becky. Bramlage was the President of the Board of Education for Geary County USD 475.

The couple were graduates of Kansas State University and members of the K-State Alumni Association, President's Club, Foundation Trustees and Ahearn Fund.

Ron was the grandson of the late Fred Bramlage, a 1935 graduate of K-State and Junction City businessman. Fred Bramlage was the lead contributor to the construction of Bramlage Coliseum, a multi-purpose arena that opened in 1988 and is home to the K-State men's and women's basketball teams.

Stay with WIBW-TV and for the latest on this developing story.

Chris Gruber
Ronald Marshall
KTUL, Tulsa