A Kansas community is mourning the loss of an entire family -- a prominent businessman, his wife and their four children -- killed when their plane crashed into Florida swampland.
The victims of the Thursday afternoon crash were Ronald Bramlage, 45, his wife, Rebecca, 43, and their four children -- Brandon, Boston, Beau and Roxanne -- who ranged in age from 8 to 15, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.
The family was returning home from the Bahamas to Kansas, and Ronald Bramlage was piloting the aircraft, officials said. The cause of the crash near Lake Kissimmee in Florida is under investigation.
Back in Kansas, friends and family reacted with shock to the news that a family with such deep, rich ties to the community was gone. They gathered outside the Bramlage home, where a trampoline sat in the frontyard, leaving flowers, cards and a teddy bear at a fence-line, make-shift shrine.
According to the Witchita Eagle, Ronald was the grandson of Fred Bramlage -- the namesake of Kansas State University’s basketball arena. Rebecca was president of the Junction City school board. Brandon, their oldest son, was a standout wrestler who took fifth place in the state, according to The Daily Union. The team has already decided to dedicate its upcoming season to him.
The Eagle posted a joint statement from Kansas State President Kirk Schulz and athletics director John Currie:
“We are shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the deaths of Ron and Becky Bramlage and their children today,” the statement read. “The Bramlage family holds a special place in the history of Kansas State University and K-State Athletics, and Ron and Becky have been loyal supporters and great fans of K-State. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bramlage family during this difficult time.”
Friends told the Eagle that Ronald Bramlage was an experienced, careful pilot. Gery Schoenrock, who used to co-own a plane with Ron, said he was devastated.
“Ron and Becky were dear, sweet friends. We watched Ron and Becky’s kids grow up. Ron and I and two other families shared a football box at K-State. We spent New Year’s Eve in Colorado and skied together. We flew together and boated together. They were just special people in our lives.”