BRANSON, Mo. -- On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration spent the day at a crash site outside Branson, trying to determine the cause of a fatal plane crash.
Keith and Dawn Curtis were the only people inside the 1968 Piper Cherokee. The newlyweds married just last month; Keith was a newly-minted pilot, and his wife was training to be one herself.
They departed from the Gardner Municipal Airport Sunday evening, shortly before sundown. They were on their way to a family holiday in Branson.
The aviation community -- especially those who pilot small planes -- is a tight knit one. Keith Curtis and his wife were eager to be a part of it. Keith had his VFR (Visual Flight Rules) rating, and was working on his IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). Dawn was working on getting her license.
At the Gardner Municipal Airport, where Keith and Dawn Curtis departed on their last flight, their first airplane still sits patiently in a hangar. Their black pickup truck still sits in the parking lot.
Keith and Dawn were in their second plane, a 1968 Piper Cherokee. It crashed just before 7 p.m. outside of Branson Sunday night.
“When I saw the color of the airplane in the footage,” Brent Bitikofer recalled, “I knew who it was.”
Bitikofer is a pilot, and runs the maintenance shop at Gardner Municipal Airport, and said all the pilots there knew Keith.
“He wanted to do things,” said Bitikofer Monday afternoon. “I don’t know about dreamer. I think he was a doer. He had an idea and he was going to do it.”
Keith Curtis ran his own company -- KC All American Moving -- from his home on Lake Road One in Gardner. It is a family-owned company.
The family, which had just last month celebrated Dawn and Keith’s marriage, was gathering in Branson for a holiday celebration. That is why the newlyweds flew down Sunday evening.
The family told FOX 4, in a written statement, “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.”
The family also said “tragedies like this remind all of us that life is precious and short and should be cherished at every turn.”
The family’s full statement is below.
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 aereas 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.