Stockbridge family dies in Texas plane crash

A plane crash has claimed the lives of a Stockbridge businessman and his family.

Michael Dustin Butler, 33, his wife Kelly, 34, their 14-year-old daughter, Brooke, and 2-year-old son, Braden, died when their single-engine plane crashed in eastern Texas, Monday, around 10 p.m., according to the Associated Press (AP).

The 1966 model Piper Saratoga plane, piloted by Butler, had departed from Atlanta South Regional Airport (formerly Tara Field), in Hampton, and had stopped in Jackson, Miss., en route to Waco, Texas.

Ernest Contreras, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the AP the aircraft crashed in the farming and ranching community of North Zulch, in Brazos County, Texas.

“Contreras said severe weather had been moving through the area when the plane crashed, but authorities were still investigating,” the AP reported.

The Butler family was traveling with Michael Butler’s brother, David Shane Butler, of Mount Calm, Texas, when the plane went down.

“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,” wrote the AP’s Will Weissert. A nearby resident called 911 to report the crash.

Brazos County Police Sgt. Charles Booker, who arrived on the scene within an hour of the crash, reported to the news service that Brooke Butler was ejected from the plane and thrown 50 feet.

“One of the plane’s wings broke away from the rest of the aircraft and came to rest more than 300 yards from the main crash area,” Weissert wrote. “The plane smashed into a series of treetops as it sped toward the ground, and left a radius of debris spreading outward more than two miles.”

Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the AP the plane had not begun its descent, when trouble began.

“Storms with rain and lightning were moving through the area when the crash occurred,” the AP reported. “Vinger said it was not clear if the weather played any role, and that authorities hadn’t determined the cause of the crash. Heavy snow fell Monday in parts of northwest Texas, though the crash occurred hundreds of miles south and east of the areas of the state that suffered the most severe weather.”

Michael Butler was the co-owner of East Coast Construction, said Stockbridge City Councilman Mark Alarcon, who had done business with Butler in the past. The distraught Alarcon said Butler had also coached football in a recreational league at Avalon Park, in McDonough.

“The whole thing is just tragic,” said the councilman. “I haven’t mentally and emotionally worked through this yet.”

County spokesperson, Julie Hoover-Ernst, said county officials did not have a great deal of information about the plane before it left Atlanta South Regional Airport.

“We know for a fact that they are not a tenant in one of Henry County’s hangars there,” she said. “But, they could be a tenant in one of the privately-owned hangars there.”

Hoover-Ernst expressed sadness following the news of the crash, and turned her thoughts to the Butler family and their loved ones. “We lost a family from Henry County,” said the spokesperson. “It’s especially difficult because it happened around the holidays. Our hearts go out to that family.”

Weissert added that investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board were at the crash scene Tuesday and flew over the area in a helicopter, in a similar flight plan to one used by the aircraft that crashed.

A final determination on what caused the crash isn’t expected for up to a year.

— The Associated Press contributed to this article.