- USA Today
Police on Tuesday confirmed that all four bodies that were aboard a small, twin-propeller plane that slammed into the ground Monday near a busy YMCA have been removed from the crash.
Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron identified the victims as Glenn and Elaine Mull, their daughter, Amy Harter, and granddaughter, Samantha Harter.
The Mulls were prominent cattle farmers in Pawnee Rock, Kansas, and were coming to Nashville for the 2014 Cattle Industry and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Trade Show at Gaylord Opryland.
Mark Gardner, an Ashland, Kansas, farmer in Nashville for the event, said the family was flying out to be volunteer coordinators at the event. He characterized the Mulls as very influential on Kansas agriculture.
A cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but Aaron said police were documenting the scene and two National Transportation Safety Board investigators were en route.
Firefighters quickly extinguished a small blaze that popped up early Tuesday at the crash site, sending fresh clouds of smoke into the air. Only investigators and fire crews have been allowed to get anywhere close to the scene, as authorities try to determine what sent the visiting Kansas cattleman and his family plunging to the ground.
The plane slammed into the ground on the YMCA’s property, but just missed the building. A slight change in the plane’s trajectory could have brought it down on bustling grocery stores, a church, family homes or the Academy of Harpeth Village, a daycare near the crash site where kids were still waiting for their parents to pick them up.
Parents flooded the center with calls after the crash.
“It’s very close to us,” Assistant Director Tori Bachelor said. “We are just really grateful here at the academy that no one on the ground was injured.”
Bachelor said there were kids in the center during the crash, but she did not specify how many. Children from 6 months to 6 years old are enrolled there.
Cattle industry reacts
Trade show participants were stunned on its first day, after learning that Glenn Mull in his family died in a plane crash miles away the night before.
Mark Cooksey is the marketing manager with Roto-Mix, a feed supplier, in Dodge City, Kan.
“It’s devastating. Just beyond description. They were great people and a pleasure to know and a pleasure to do business with,” he said.
National Cattlemen Beef Association President Scott George released a statement Tuesday. Glenn Mull was active in the NCBA and the Kansas Livestock Association.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of four members of the beef family last night in a tragic plane crash near Nashville, Tenessee. Their deaths are a difficult reminder of the fragile nature of life, and the entire beef community has the family and their friends in our thoughts and prayers. We would ask that their privacy be respected during this difficult time.”
Church, friends remember victims
The Rev. Jay Beuoy, pastor of Grace Community Church in Great Bend, Kan., said the Mulls were stalwarts of the community.
“Glenn he was just a very capable, competent man,” he said. “I think he has got several feed lots and all kinds of ag-related businesses. He was a wonderful man, just generous and friendly. He would come to church on Sunday morning every Sunday, if they were in town.”
Glenn and Elaine Mull had two daughters and a son, he said. Amy Harter, the daughter who died in the crash, had a home on the family property and worked in the family business. Elaine Mull was a pianist at the church who taught two women’s Bible study classes.
Amy Harter was devoted to her family, he said. Her daughter, Samantha, who also died in the crash, attended the church school before she transferred to a high school in Larned.
“It’s sad today with the snowfall,” he said. “I think there would be a lot of events probably planned, but the weather is going to prevent it today for sure.”
Church leaders sent an email to the congregation to give them comfort, explaining how excited Elaine Mull was for a new Sunday School curriculum and providing scriptural support:
The Larned (Kansas) High School community came together at the school gym last night to mourn sophomore Samantha Harter, her mother, Amy, and grandparents Glenn and Elaine, who died in the crash just hours earlier.
Samantha, a sophomore who turned 17 last month, was known for her 4-H Club work, cheerleading and honors-level singing voice. Her friends in the 300-student school said she was a loving person who never minded giving hugs when they were down.
“She would have the most energy at Beginnings (honor choir) practice at 7 in the morning,” said Gina Wray, a senior who helped start the R.I.P. Samantha Harter Facebook group. “She’d either be there, tired — with caramel rolls that her mom made — or all up in your face, laughing loud. She and I had a lot of fun last semester.”
Family friend Roger Hanhardt said Glenn Mull grew up ranching, learning the trade from his father Keith Mull, who just celebrated his 90th birthday.
“Together, Keith and Glenn put together an agricultural empire,” Hanhardt said. “They had lots of feed lots (tracks of land with thousands of cattle), lots of farm ground. I wouldn’t begin to know what all they might have. But through all that, they remained very common, ordinary people and never showboated. They were very helpful to the community, the Pawnee Rock American Legion and to the Pawnee Rock Alumni Association.”
Pilot’s ‘last act’
Tuesday, police blocked access to the entire YMCA complex, including the parking lot.
A handful of members didn’t know about the crash until they arrived in the morning to see crime scene tape and flashing blue lights.
Jon Storey came at 7:45 a.m. in an attempt to get his wife’s van from the parking lot. She had been inside the Y with their three children when the building was evacuated.
Storey said his kids, a 6-year-old and 3-year-old twins, saw flames rising from the wreckage Monday evening.
“They just ask a lot of questions,” he said. “It was scary.”
He credits the pilot with narrowly avoiding the Y, and saving his children’s lives.
“Be thankful for that pilot,” he said. “That was his last act.”