Friends and loved ones are reflecting on the Henry County family of Michael Dustin Butler, since four family members lost their lives in a plane crash this week.
Butler, 33, his current wife, Kelly, 34, his 14-year-old daughter, Brooke, and 2-year-old son, Braylon, will be remembered, Dec. 27, at 2 p.m., in a combined funeral at Glen Haven Baptist Church in McDonough.
Butler’s brother, David Shane Butler, of Mount Calm, Texas, also was killed in the crash. His funeral service will be in Texas, on Friday.
The family members died when their single-engine plane crashed in eastern Texas, Monday, around 10 p.m.
“Our community was hit with a terrible tragedy this week,” says a statement issued by friends of the Butler family, Wednesday. “The plane crash that took the lives of the Butler family impacted all of us on many levels. Whether we worked with them, went to school with them, played sports with them ... we’ve all been affected.”
Beth Heintz, who lives on Windhave Court, next door to the Butlers in Stockbridge, said she did not know the family well, but was saddened to hear of their deaths. “They were just really nice people,” said Heintz.
The 1966 model Piper Saratoga plane, piloted by Michael Butler, had departed from Atlanta South Regional Airport (formerly Tara Field), in Hampton, enroute to Waco, Texas.
“The flight originated in Atlanta, stopped in Jackson, Miss., and was headed for Waco, Texas, when it crashed in a field north of Bryan and College Station,” the Associated Press reported. “A nearby resident called 911 to report the crash.”
Gene Hafele, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Houston/Galveston office, said weather conditions could have contributed to the Butlers’ crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Representatives from the board could not be reached for comment, Wednesday.
Michael Butler was the co-owner of East Coast Construction, and has two other children, 11-year-old Jacob and 10-year-old Wyatt, who were not involved in the crash.
“The whole thing is just tragic,” said Stockbridge City Councilman Mark Alarcon, who knew Butler from his work as football coach in a recreational league at Avalon Park, in McDonough.
Brooke Butler was a ninth-grader and junior varsity basketball cheerleader, at Union Grove High School, in McDonough. J.D. Hardin, communications specialist for Henry County Schools, said efforts are in the works to help students who are affected by her death.
“Once school gets back in,” he said, “we’ll have counselors available for students who need to speak to somebody. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during this very difficult time.”
Union Grove High School Principal Tom Smith echoed Hardin’s sentiments. “Anytime that we lose a member of our family, it’s very tough on us, because we take great pride in our community and in our students,” said Smith.
Smith said the loss of Brooke Butler marks the second student death at Union Grove High School this year. La’Bronn Murray, a 17-year-old senior, died of natural causes in September.
Chrissy Chapman, of McDonough, is a friend of Brooke Butler’s mother, Alison Butler, who was not involved in the crash. Chapman said little about the accident, describing it with a single word: “Devastating.”
Chapman said a memorial fund in Brooke Butler’s name, on Alison Butler’s behalf, has been set up at United Community Bank. Contributions can be mailed to the bank at 850 Eagle’s Landing Parkway, in Stockbridge, in care of the Brooke Butler Memorial Fund.
Family and friends of the Butlers will gather at Cannon-Cleveland Funeral Directors, in McDonough, Monday, from 2 p.m., to 4 p.m., and from 6 p.m., to 8 p.m.