WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Hearts were heavy and the mood somber Monday morning inside Westfield High School.
“It is really hard,” said Gabriel DelGreco, an acquaintance of two teens who died in a plane crash in Kokomo on Sunday morning.
According to the Howard County Sheriff’s Office, 17-year-old Liam Kelly and his 15-year-old brother, Reece Kelly, both died after the plane they were in crashed outside Glenndale Airport southwest of Kokomo. The Kelly brothers were students at Westfield High School.
As the plane came in to land, deputies say, the plane hit a wooden utility pole with large high-tension power lines. That caused the plane to nose-dive into a cornfield, where it caught fire. The pilot, 63-year-old Jerral Long, also died.
A third boy, Cameron Wagler, 17, from Greentown, was injured but alert and conscious to provide deputies with important information regarding the flight. Wagler told deputies was sitting in the back of the plane. At last check, Wagler was in stable condition at a hospital.
The deaths hit students at the school hard.
“I was shocked more than anything else,” said Tyler Eubanks, an acquaintance.
DelGreco said, “Liam was really … he was really just a good person to talk to all together. He was super well-educated and well-versed on everything he said,” DelGreco said.
“Both, very kind individuals, though,” Eubanks said.
The boys and the pilot were volunteering for the weekend at the annual Glenndale Days BBQ Bash charity event. An event spokesperson told News 8 that the people in the plane had decided to take a flight around Kokomo before things got too busy.
Eubanks said, “Him and Reece both had a pretty big passion for flying. As I can recall, they were both very much looking forward to possibly being pilots in the future.”
The boys were part of a group called The Flying Squirrels, a program designed to teach young pilots.
Joshua Andrews, the director of communications for Westfield Washington Schools, said to help with the grieving process, the Learning Center at the high school is open as a safe place for people to come process and share memories of the Kellys.
“Yesterday morning at the ‘Glenndale Days’ event, our four friends volunteering for the weekend decided to take a flight around the city before things got too busy. Tragically, coming back in to land, they collided with a utility pole for the high tension power lines, and crashed in a field just short of the runway. The pilot and two of the three young men with him perished. The third young man is in stable condition in the hospital. As you can imagine, our airport community and families are completely devastated. Please pray for these families and everyone involved.”Laura Stants, a Glenndale Days organizer, on Sept. 21, 2020
“The Flying Squirrels have been operating since the 1960’s. Over the last 10 years or so we have developed a summer program that allows interested young people to give flying a try. The program runs over 5 weeks in the summer. We meet on Tuesdays and provide a ground school and flight program in which the students receive 5 hours of instruction in a vintage tailwheel aircraft. Liam and Reece have participated for a couple of years and have accumulated 15 to 20 hours of flight time with a certified instructor. We encourage the Flying Squirrels to volunteer with the many airport activities (air shows, fly ins, and other celebrations. Liam and Reece have participated in many of these activities. This past weekend the boys were volunteering with the rides by helping riders to and from the planes. Its a fun opportunity to be around airplanes and people that love flying. A part of the attraction of helping at such an event is the anticipation of getting a free ride in one of the planes. That is just what the boys were doing. Jerry Long one of our flying club members asked the boys if they would like to take a ride before it got busy. And that’s just what the boys did. I remember watching the boys as they hurried along following Jerry to the plane. I recall the smile on Jerry’s face as he was talking with the boys on the way to the plane. That’s just what it is like with our group as we share a love for aviation.”Steve Cusick, a sponsor of The Flying Squirrels
“It is with great sadness that we inform you that our Westfield Washington Shamrocks family suffered a tragic loss when Liam and Reece Kelly passed away on Sunday. We ask that you keep the Kelly family in your thoughts as they go through this deeply difficult time.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends, teammates, coaches and staff whose lives they touched. As a valued member of our Shamrock community, Liam and Reece will be greatly missed.
“Alicia Denniston, Interim Principal of Westfield High School, shared her thoughts with the high school student body:
“‘I want you to know that there is no wrong way to grieve,’ she said. ‘Some of you knew the boys well and will feel this difficult loss profoundly. For others, this tragedy may trigger hurtful memories and that will be a difficult emotional burden to carry today. However you feel, we will support you and provide a space to grieve, a listening ear or some words of comfort.’
“In order to facilitate the grieving process, the Learning Center at Westfield High School will be open as a safe space for small groups or individuals to process and share memories of the Kellys. Administrators and counselors will be on site to provide emotional support and facilitate conversation. Though it is a Gold Day, students in the Green group are welcome to come into school and be a part of our group or individual grieving processes. If they are unable to come in, or would prefer to get support virtually, please have them reach out to their counselor who will arrange support on terms comfortable for the student.
“‘What the Kelly family is experiencing is unimaginable, but in challenging times like this, we find our strength in those around us,’ Dr. Sherry Grate, superintendent of Westfield Washington Schools said. ‘So, let’s lift each other up, let’s lift the Kelly family up and let’s come together as a Shamrock family and support each other through this difficult time.’
“The district is sensitive to the fact that grief varies in length and looks different from person to person. So, we ask that the students’ home support system play a role in this process as you know your child best. Create time and space for your child or children to share feelings and feel free to contact the school if you need extra support during this extremely trying time.
“This is a tremendous loss for the Kelly family and the district asks that you please respect their privacy while they navigate this undoubtedly difficult and stressful time.”Message sent to district families; provided by Joshua Andrews, the director of communications for Westfield Washington Schools