4 dead, including 2 children, in small plane crash in Missouri

June 12, 2015: In this photo provided by The Houston Herald, authorities investigate a plane crash near Huggins, Mo.

June 12, 2015: In this photo provided by The Houston Herald, authorities investigate a plane crash near Huggins, Mo.  (AP)

Four people, including two children were killed and another child was hurt Friday morning when their small plane crashed while taking off from a relative’s airstrip in Missouri, authorities said.

A Utah State Board of Education member, his wife and two of their children were among the dead.

Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Kinder said witnesses reported that the Beechcraft A-36 got about 100 feet off the ground before stalling in a rural area near Huggins. C. Mark Openshaw, 43, a  member of the Utah education board since 2008, and his family were returning to their home in Provo, Utah after visiting relatives.

The other victims were identified as Openshaw’s wife, Amy, 43; their 15-year-old son Tanner; and 12-year-old daughter Ellie. The couple’s 5-year-old son was taken to a Springfield-area hospital in serious condition. Openshaw, a pilot who served on the Provo Municipal Airport Board, has two other surviving children.

Steve Gleason, the manager of the Provo Airport, said Openshaw was a “very experienced pilot,” adding that he was "meticulous in the way he took care of his plane."

"He was just always happy and energetic and just a great guy," Gleason said. "It is a sad day for us."

Roy Burgess, a family friend who lives next to Openshaw’s parents in Missouri, told KYTV that he walked outside to watch the takeoff and that Openshaw’s mother and sider were on the highway waving at the plane.

"And I never did see it get above the trees," Burgess said. "All I can say is, 'I'm sorry; I'm sorry it happened. I'm going to miss them. They're good friends of mine. It's a tragic thing for this community. They're well known here.'"

Openshaw, who won a second four-year school board term in 2012, served as the chairman of the Law and Licensing Committee. Utah State Board of Education Chairman David Crandall praised Openshaw in a statement.

Crandall described him as "deeply passionate about Utah's public schools" and describing his death as "a significant loss to our community."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining 18 months of Openshaw's term, with the consent of the Utah Senate. Herbert said Openshaw's service to the board was "exemplary."

Openshaw, a Brigham Young University graduate, also was involved in agriculture and ranching operations. Additionally, he was the co-founder and president of AirComUSA, a Provo-based telecommunications business that provides Internet faxing services.

Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials said the agencies are investigating the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report