Springfield family killed in plane crash

Family of four and a friend believed to be traveling from a Kansas City baseball game when plane crashed

September 15, 2012|Mary Moloney and KSPR News Staff |

WILLARD, Mo. -- Four Springfield family members are among the dead after a plane crashed north of Willard.  Troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed a 2002 Cirrus SR22 went down just after midnight Saturday in a field north of Farm Road 123 in Willard.

The pilot of the plane is believed to be 44-year-old John Lambert. He was with a family friend 46-year-old Robin Melton of Ozark. Lambert's 16-year-old son Grayson, 15-year-old daughter McKinley, and 10-year-old son Joshua were also killed in the crash. No one survived the crash.

Late Friday night, Cindy Farmer was in her Willard home when she heard a low flying plane overhead.

"It was just surreal; it was like a dream almost," Farmer said. "I heard this boom like a sonic boom and it shook the house and then I saw this ball of fire like 50 feet in the air. Just huge red. It was just unbelievable, just above the tree line you could see the fireball. You know, it was just huge."

After the plane crashed on her property, she immediately called 911. Then she, her husband, and neighbors searched for survivors.

"My husband got out with a flashlight yelling for anybody who was around, if we could help anybody and there was no answer," Farmer explained as her voice lowered. "It was almost completely gone. There was part of a wing on fire and everything was on fire, but part of the wing was still there. And then there was some wheels and things were scattered all over, but it was almost gone. It was gruesome."

Hours before the crash, the Lambert family and Melton watched a Kansas City Royals baseball game. Pictures posted to the teenagers' twitter accounts depict 15-year-old McKinley and her 10-year-old brother Joshua smiling in the stands. Another shot showed Lambert and the kids in front of the field. The snapshots of the family are the last known pictures taken before the deadly crash.

Saturday afternoon, facebook and twitter pages were set up in memory of the family.

"You think of a whole family is lost and there's people who know and love them and they are mourning and so we all need to pray for these people and keep them in our thoughts and prayers," said Geneva Tranbarger, who heard the crash.

"I just hate it for the family; it's just an awful thing to go through. Just terribly sad for the family," sympathized Farmer.

John Lambert was named President of the Board of Directors for the OTC Foundation in June. The OTC Foundation is the furnishing branch of the community college. According to a news release sent by the foundation earlier this summer, Lambert was also owner of Missouri Insulation & Supply, Inc.

The children were all students at Springfield Public Schools. Grayson and McKinley attended Glendale High School where they both were involved in sports. Grayson played soccer while his sister was on the volleyball team.

Saturday, the Glendale boys' soccer and girls' volleyball teams were told about the loss. The morning after the crash, the girls volleyball team was part of a tournament and participated. After they were told of the crash, the team elected not to play.

10-year-old Joshua went to Sequiota Elementary School. A representative of Springfield Public Schools said grief counselors would be on school campuses Monday to help students and teachers who knew the family.

Melton was President and Owner of Environment Works Incorporated. According to a late company news release, Melton also served on the boards of a variety of charitable organizations.

Representatives with The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will continue to investigate the crash throughout the weekend. Troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Greene County Sheriff's Office, and Willard Rescue responded to the initial wreck.

An autopsy on the bodies is scheduled for Monday.

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