Sheriff identifies victims of deadly plane crash near Branson West

BRANSON WEST, Mo. -- The Stone County sheriff identified the victims of a deadly plane crash near Branson West Sunday night.

Courtesy: Joyelle Low Buckley (Sister of Dawn)

Keith M. Curtis, 52, of Gardner, Kansas and Dawn M. Curtis, 45, of Gardner, Kansas died in the plane crash. The were both pronounced dead at the scene.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began investigations into what caused the crash on Monday morning.

"We are looking for pilot qualifications, background, medical. Then, we will go and do an examination of the aircraft. We will also go into the maintenance history of the aircraft. Then, finally, the environment, the weather, air traffic control, radar information, that kind of stuff," NTSB Air Safety Investigator Craig Hatch said.

The plane crashed in the area of Branson West Airport and Yocom Pond Road just after 6:30 p.m. The airplane is a 1968 Piper single engine aircraft. Witnesses who live nearby told KY3 News heard the plane flying low to the ground before it crashed.

"All of the sudden, the motor stopped and I heard a big boom," neighbor Vicki Morrow said.

"I kept hearing the plane flying around and it sounded like he was having motor problems," Martin West said. "I told my wife 'It sounds like he is going to crash.' It wasn't but a few seconds later and there was a big 'thump.' It shook the whole floor and the ground and everything and we ran outside and my wife called 911. We went looking for it and there it was over there right in the field."

Authorities do no yet know why the plane went down.

The NTSB will likely release a preliminary report within about five days. However, the probable cause report, which will have the exact reason why they believe the crash happened, will likely take more than a year.

The family of the Dawn and Keith Curtis 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