LAKE WALES, Florida (AP) -- A Junction City businessman, his wife and their four children were killed Thursday when their small plane crashed into a swampy area near Tampa, authorities said.
Ron Bramlage was a prominent philanthropist and businessman in Junction City and owned Roadside Ventures LLC, to which the plane was registered. Also killed were his wife, Becky Bramlage, 43, and their four children, whose ages were not released. Mrs. Bramlage was the President of the School Board of Junction City's USD 475.
Their single-turboprop, fixed wing plane broke apart and went down about 12:30 Thursday afternoon in the Tiger Creek Preserve, just south of Lake Wales, the Polk County Sheriff's office said. Ron Bramlage, who was 45, was piloting the plane headed from the Bahamas to Junction City, Kansas. The family had stopped for fuel and customs in the eastern coastal town of Saint Lucie, Florida, and had taken off a half-hour before the crash.
Their aircraft was at about 26,000 feet when it first began experiencing trouble, officials said. Deputies reached the area by helicopters but it was clear there were no survivors, the sheriff's office said.
The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, but parts of were found two miles from the crash site, which was only reachable by helicopters and all-terrain vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation but a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said it would take a long time.
The couple were graduates of Kansas State University, and members of the K-State Alumni Association, President's Club, Foundation Trustees and Ahearn Fund.
"We are shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the deaths of Ron and Becky Bramlage and their children today," said a joint statement released by University President Dr. Kirk Schulz and Athletics Director John Currie. "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 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.
Grief-stricken friends said their deaths Thurdsay "will leave a giant hole in the community."
Funeral services are pending.