(WIBW/CBS) - A small plane crash outside Tampa, FL has claimed the lives of a Junction City family.
The Polk County, Florida Sheriff's Office says a plane went town in the remove Tiger Creek Swamp area near Lake Wales, FL around 12:40 pm eastern time Thursday. Authorities needed specialty vehicles to access the site.
Two adults and four children were killed.
Aerial footage showed a silver single-engine Pilatus PC-12 in several pieces. Authorities say it appears there are no survivors.
The aircraft was registered to Roadside Ventures, LLC in Junction City. Clint Francis, who works with the company, told WIBW that the plane is owned by the company and he believes the dead include the company owner Ron Bramlage and family members. Francis says he has not received official word from authorities confirming the deaths.
Flight records show the plane took off from the Bahamas Thursday morning and had stopped in St. Lucie, FL to refuel before taking off for Junction City.
Neighbors and friends gathered Thursday at the Bramlage Family Foundation office in Junction City and at the Bramlage's Junction City home. They say Ron Bramlage, his wife Becky and their four children (three sons and one daughter) had been on vacation for several weeks. Flowers and posters were placed on the front gate of the family's home.
Becky Bramlage was the President of the Board of Education for Geary County USD 475. Superintendent Ron Walker says his office has not received official confirmation of her passing but he expressed his sincere condolences.
"Well right now what we can say is that there was a plane that was being piloted back from the Bahamas to the Junction City area. It is believed to have contained one of our USD 475 family members. We’re still waiting official confirmation. We’ve seen reports that it was, perhaps, our board president, Becky Bramlage and her family. We don’t know that for sure… We’re still hoping against hope that it’s not them, however we must be prepared as well so we have gone into crisis mode and we are notifying all board members and staff members," Walker told 13 News.
"The Bramlage family is known throughout Kansas for being strong advocates for education. That’s just a given. Bramlage Coliseum at K-State has been appropriately named for them, the Dorothy Bramlage Library here in Junction City is named after the family. Becky became involved with our school board about 7 years ago and has just been a tremendous force in helping us to move forward. She’s a strong advocate for technology in our school district. We think we have a super strong technology program in our school district before of her efforts….Her and Ron supported the schools’ foundation with a lot of scholarships and just made this school district a much better place…This is a huge, huge loss for our community and our school district. Both of them were very heavily involved in everything in this community so it’s a really great loss for Junction City and a great loss for Geary County schools but even more than that because of their passion for education, it’s a great loss for Kansas...Our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out for the family because that's where they need to be right now," Walker added.
On Thursday, Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz and Athletics Director Jon Currie issued a joint statement on the Bramlage Family: “We are shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the deaths of Ron and Becky Bramlage and their children today. The Bramlage family holds a special place in the history of Kansas State University and K-State Athletics, and Ron and Becky have been loyal supporters and great fans of K-State. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bramlage family during this difficult time.”
Ron (1990) and Becky (1991 and 1992) were both graduates of Kansas State University. They were both 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.
Deborah Johnston, a neighbor, says Ron Bramlage was a pilot and had recently purchased a new plane.
"A lot of us are in total shock. I knew he was coming back. I knew he’d been gone for a couple of weeks in the Bahamas with his family and they were returning home. I just couldn’t believe it when I got the call. I’m still saying prayers hoping that it didn’t happen. If it is true, it is a total loss to this community for all of the support they’ve given us. It’s going to leave a big hole in the city. Many of us have always thought very highly of Ron and the family. You couldn’t ask for a better family to represent Junction City and the surrounding areas. Their family was amazing," she said.
"They’re just a well respected family throughout the city, the country, the state. It’s just a tragedy. I don’t know what else to say. We’re going to miss them. It’s a devastating loss," added Brett Dean, a local architect and long-time friend of the family.
USD 475 issued an official statement Thursday night titled "Tragic Loss." It reads: "USD 475 is deeply saddened at the loss of Ron and Becky Bramlage and their four children Roxanne, Beau, Boston and Brandon. Words cannot describe the pain we feel in this moment. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family for their loss, a loss that not only impacts us as a school district but the entire county and State of Kansas as well.
Becky was an advocate and champion of education for USD 475. She was proud that her children attended USD 475 and wanted to ensure that this school district was a pioneer in the areas of technology and in academics. Becky was also a proponent of training for all board members and wanted people to work collaboratively in order to set new trends and be problem solvers for education. Becky was a very active member of the Kansas Association of School Boards, the National Association of School Boards and was a very proliferate advocate for the Kansas State Department of Education.
Ron and Becky were strong supporters of public education and made tremendous contributions to the Geary County Schools Foundation to support its work and scholarships for students of USD 475. Becky and Ron worked together as a team in all of their endeavors and we all benefited from their dedication to this State and to this community.
Becky, her husband Ron and her children Brandon, Boston, Beau and Roxanne will be severely missed."
Counseling services for students will be available beginning on Friday at Lincoln, Junction City Middle and the Freshman Success Academy Schools from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm.