Teen Siblings Among 3 Dead After Plane Crashes Near Indiana Airport Prior to Charity Event

"The world has lost two beautiful young souls, and Pat and Kesha's lives have forever been changed," a family friend wrote of Liam and Reece Kelly

Liam and Reece Kelly
Liam and Reece Kelly. Photo: The Liam and Reece Kelly Scholarship Fund

Life as an Indiana family of four knows it has forever been changed after the parents' two teenage sons were killed in a plane crash on Sunday.

Liam and Reece Kelly were identified as two of the three victims who were killed in the crash, which unfolded just before 11 a.m. local time near the Glenndale Airport in Kokomo, according to a press release from the Howard County Sheriff's Office (HCSO).

In addition to Liam, 17, and Reece, 15, officials said the plane's pilot, Jerral Alan Long, 63, also died in the crash. A fourth person on board, Cameron Wagler, 17, miraculously survived and was listed in stable condition at a hospital.

"The Howard County Sheriff's Office extends its deepest condolences to the families of those involved in this tragic accident. We ask that you help us by giving those involved the privacy, respect and peace they deserve while they navigate through the hardest times of their lives," Captain Jordan J. Buckley with the HCSO wrote in the press release.

According to local authorities and a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) obtained by PEOPLE, the single-engine Piper PA-32 was preparing to land at the airport when it crashed.

Buckley noted in the release that the pilot and boys were flying "prior to the annual Glenndale Days BBQ Bash charity event" at the airport. According to NBC affiliate WTHR, the annual event raises money for kids with spinal muscular atrophy.

Liam and Reece Kelly
Patrick & Kesha Kelly with sons Reece and Liam. GoFundMe

A preliminary investigation, along with the eyewitness accounts, determined that Long "struck a large, high-tension wooden power line pole," which caused the aircraft to "nose-dive into the cornfield below where it caught fire," the press release stated.

When authorities arrived at the scene, they discovered an "alert and conscious" Wagler being tended to by bystanders. The teen explained to officials that there were four people on board and that he was seated in the rear of the plane, according to the press release.

After answering questions, Wagler was airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital burn unit, where he was in good condition, WTHR reported. His family told the outlet they feel "absolutely blessed" to have their son alive.

In a statement to PEOPLE, the FAA confirms they are investigating the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The HCSO is also involved, along with the Howard County Coroner's Office, which is expected to perform autopsies on Tuesday.

According to the Kelly brothers' joint obituary, they were both members of the Flying Squirrels — Liam for four years and Reece for two. The flight club is for teens ages 14-18, The Indy Star reported.

"Both boys babysat, mowed lawns, and were always willing to help out," the page reads. "They enjoyed helping their grandparents with landscaping, mulch, and whatever else needed [to be] done."

The teens were also involved with Grace Church and Grace Kids Camp as volunteers, enjoyed horseback riding and vacations with family and competed in cross country, track, karate, Cub Scouts and swim club, the page said.

Individually, Liam was described in the obituary as a senior at Westfield High School who "loved airplanes," would often clean them to pay for flying time and had recently applied to the Air Force Academy "to fulfill his dream."

Reece, a sophomore at Westfield High School, was involved in the school band and hoped to also join the Air Force Academy, according to the obituary.

This is not the first time the parents have lost children. According to the brothers' obituary, they were preceded in death by their infant sister, Olivia Kelly.

"What the Kelly family is experiencing is unimaginable, but in challenging times like this, we find our strength in those around us," school superintendent Dr. Sherry Grate told WTHR in a statement.

Added family friend, Amy Miller Gardine, on Facebook: "Through this awful event, the world has lost two beautiful young souls, and Pat and Kesha’s lives have forever been changed. Please pray for their family. Hold a space of silence. Join with all of us as we weep together over the sadness of it all."

The boys' cross-country and track and field teammates expressed their heartbreak in a tweet, writing: "We are overwhelmed with grief as we announce the tragic passing of Liam and Reece Kelly. Our friends. Our teammates. Our brothers. We love you, we will miss you, and we will carry you with us forever."

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Those who knew Long also spoke out about their devastation, with Steve Cusic, Flying Squirrels club direction and flight instructor, describing the pilot as "somebody that put others first."

"He's been an outstanding example of what an adult should be and how they conduct themselves around kids," Cusick told The Indy Star.

In the wake of the tragedy, a Memorial Scholarship Fund was set up in memory of Liam and Reece through the Westfield Athletic Booster Club. A GoFundMe page was also set up to assist the boys' parents, Kesha and Pat Kelly, during this difficult time.

"I am at [a] loss for words and sadden for this wonderful family," wrote the GoFundMe page organizer, Nathan Pham. "As a father, I could not fathom to lose a child, let alone two at the same time... Each of us grief differently, so I am trying little and the best I could to help their family."

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