News staff writers
Birmingham Al. June 30 2008
Four people, including three members of a well-known Jasper area car dealership family, died Sunday in a Walker County plane crash.
Bobby Crump, 56, his wife Jan, 52, and their son, Matthew, 21, of Jasper and Matthew’s girlfriend, Lauren Brue, 19, of West Des Moines, Iowa, were killed in the crash, said Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey.
The plane crashed into a wooded area off Russell Dairy Road about a mile from the airport.
Phillip Banks, who lives on Johnsey Bridge Road, in the flight path of the airport, said he was in his backyard unhooking his boat when the accident happened. He said he is used to planes coming over but, “this one caught my attention because it didn’t sound right.”
Banks said it sounded like the plane was running on one engine. “It was just spiraling” downward he said. He heard the crash and ran into his house and told his wife to call 911. “I just feel sorry for that family,” he said.
The NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration had already begun to meet with local authorities, investigate the crash and interview witnesses by late Sunday afternoon.
Joey Sanders, owner of Sanders Aviation and a friend of Crump as well as an FAA examiner, said there were no witnesses to the crash. The visibility of three to five miles of at the time of the crash was termed “marginal.”
“It (the plane) was full of fuel,” Sanders said. “Nobody really knows what happened. Whether he had engine trouble, or was trying to turn around and come back, I don’t think anybody knows right now.”
Tirey said they had witnesses who saw the plane going in a downward direction but none who had seen the actual crash. He said there was no rain in the area at the time.
The twin-engine, four-seat Beechcraft BE-55 airplane the four were riding in crashed at 7:56 a.m., shortly after taking off from the Walker County Airport, said National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway.
They were heading to Gulf Shores for a family retreat,” said John Crump, a first cousin to Bobby Crump.
The family, which attended First United Methodist Church in Jasper, was close, John Crump said. “They were always together,” he said.
Bobby and Jan had been married more than 30 years, John Crump said. Jan was a retired teacher and was a homemaker. Matthew, their only child, was a student at the University of Alabama majoring in business. He was about to be a senior. His girlfriend, Lauren Brue, also was a University of Alabama student.
Brue was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority and the sorority’s intramural softball team, according to UA Web sites. Bobby Crump was an automobile dealer who had sold his Nissan dealership in Jasper several years ago. He was currently operating a used car lot, C&J Motors, John Crump said.
“He was a great guy, a good businessman and family man,” John Crump said.
Other members of Bobby Crump’s extended family also are or have been in automobile sales in the Birmingham area. They include John Crump, who owned a Toyota dealership at one time. John Crump’s son, Scott, now owns Scott Crump Toyota.
Bobby Crump, who owned the Beechcraft, had a pilot’s license and on Saturday had flown takeoffs and landings as part of the qualifications to keep his pilot’s license current, John Crump said. Sanders said Crump had flown for more than 20 years, but basically kept the plane to fly to the beach for family getaways. The family had even taken two dogs along for Sunday’s trip, he said.
“This is quite a tragedy. They’ll be missed,” said Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey. “They are a highly respected, well-thought of family.