Texas town mourns loss of 5, including coach and homebuilder, killed in NM plane crash

GRANBURY, Texas (AP) — A day after five residents died in a plane crash in New Mexico, the small, close-knit town of Granbury on Friday mourned the losses that included a coach, a teacher and a homebuilder.

The victims belonged to families who were well known in the community of 8,000 that sits on Lake Granbury, 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, and is known for its quaint, historic downtown.

"It's a tragic loss to lose members of two families, especially in a close-knit, family oriented community," Granbury Mayor Rickie Pratt said.

A memorial with flowers, cards, candles and pictures was growing Friday at the home of Karl Lowell Richey, who coached several middle school sports, and his wife, Keri Richey, an elementary school teacher. One youngster left a card that read, "Mrs. Richey, you are the most funny, smart, exciting teacher I have ever met! Because you are in a better place now let this lite shine on you!!!"

Also killed in the Thursday crash were Rodney Duree, a homebuilder and chairman of Granbury's Airport Advisory Board, his wife, Delaine Duree, and their 11-year-old son, Lake.

The Richeys' two sons, 16-year-old Alexander and 12-year-old Kristopher, survived the crash but remained hospitalized in El Paso.

"I can't believe this. I just talked to him," said Julia Sutton, 16, as she cried and hugged friends in front of the Richeys' house, which had been a popular hangout for Alexander's friends. "Everyone he was around, he made them laugh."

Family friends said Coach Richey, as he was known around town, was taking his mother's remains to New Mexico, and Rodney Duree, who loved to fly and often took his family on trips, offered to take the Richeys.

Witnesses told investigators the aircraft plunged while attempting to land Thursday at Sierra Blanca Regional Airport near Ruidoso, N.M.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived Friday in New Mexico to inspect the wreckage and talk to witnesses.

Investigators will try to determine whether the aircraft was loaded properly because seven people were aboard the six-passenger Cessna 310, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.

An initial review indicated the plane's left wing tip touched ground, starting the aircraft in a cartwheel as it crashed a quarter-mile short of the runway, he said. Inside the wreckage, investigators discovered two hand-held GPS devices, which Knudson said could provide information about the plane's approach if data could be retrieved.

Both couples were kindhearted, loved to have fun and would do anything for people in need, friends said.

Lowell Richey, 46, had been a coach in Granbury for years before working last year at a school in nearby Godley. Keri Richey, 44, was a beloved teacher and photos showed her laughing with her students.

Last Halloween, the Richeys decorated their house elaborately, dressed as vampires and hosted a party for their teenage son and his friends — but they had just as much fun, Sutton said.

Lowell Richey enjoyed taking his sons camping and had planned another trip with his new camper, said Tony Tull, whose teenage son is a close friend of Alexander's.

"It's not going to be the same without them," Tull said.

Rodney Duree, 49, never missed an airport board meeting, the mayor said.

He and his wife were active in their son's school and sports activities, said Lori Magner, who knew them for years. Delaine Duree, 50, was always smiling and happy, and Rodney Duree was a fun-loving man who had been an avid water skier.

"It's so devastating," Magner said.

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Associated Press writer Tim Korte contributed to this report from Albuquerque, N.M.