LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) - A Kansas businessman, his wife and their four children were killed Thursday when their small plane crashed into a swampy area of central Florida, authorities said.
The single-turboprop, fixed wing plane broke apart and went down about 12:30 p.m. in the Tiger Creek Preserve, just south of Lake Wales, the Polk County Sheriff's office said. Ronald Bramlage, 45, was piloting the plane headed from the Bahamas to Junction City, Kan. The family had stopped for customs in Fort Pierce, Fla., and had taken off a half-hour before the crash.
The 2006 Pilatus PC-12/47 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 wasn't immediately known, and parts of the plane 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.
Ronald Bramlage was a prominent businessman in Junction City and owned Roadside Ventures LLC, to which the plane was registered. Also killed were his wife, Rebecca Bramlage, 43, and their four children, whose ages were not released.
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.
James A. Sands, vice mayor of Junction City, said the Bramlage family has been a huge influence. He said he had not heard about the plane crash, but that he knew the Bramlages were away on a trip. A library in the city is named for Ron Bramlage's grandmother, Dorothy Bramlage.
"I know Ron is very much into the city. He knows real estate and he tries to better the city any way he can," he said. "My goodness. Just great wonderful people. And I think Mrs. (Becky) Bramlage was on the school board."
He said the Bramlages at one point owned the loan on the building for a local homeless shelter and "one day, Dorothy Bramlage just said, "Nah. It's paid off. You don't owe any more.'"
The 4,900-acre Tiger Wood Preserve about 50 miles southwest of Orlando contains hardwood swamps, hammocks, scrubby flatwoods, pine flatwoods, sandhill and longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat, according to its website.