‘Storm Activity’: Family Of Five Perish In Private Plane Crash Flying Back To Georgia From Youth Baseball Tournament In Cooperstown

Trips to Cooperstown to play in baseball tournaments and also see the MLB Hall of Fame have become a staple of most young tournament players’ journey as they move into teenage years. 

The fields are specifically designed to encourage home runs and any kid who has ever played there leaves with fond memories and a deep love for the game. 

Thousands of families travel to Cooperstown each season to participate in this lifelog baseball memory. Usually, they all make it home to share the experience with other loved ones. 

VanEpps Family Tragedy

In a bizarre and tragic story, five members of a family from Georgia who were visiting Cooperstown, New York, for a baseball tournament died when their small plane crashed in a wooded area of upstate New York, authorities said Monday.

Most families don’t have the money or resources to take a privately chartered plane to and from New York and Georgia. 

This particular, single-engine Piper PA-46 crashed around 2 p.m. Sunday after taking off from Albert S. Nader Regional Airport in Oneonta, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

Roger Beggs, 76; Laura VanEpps, 43; Ryan VanEpps, 42; James VanEpps, 12; and Harrison VanEpps,10 tragically died in a private plane crash in New York while returning to Georgia after a baseball tournament in Cooperstown, NY. (FOX News)

The wreckage of the plane and the remains of the five people on board were found Sunday night in the town of Masonville, New York State Police said in a news release. Drones, all-terrain vehicles and helicopters were used to search for the remote crash site, which was about 125 miles northwest of New York City.

Who Died In The Plane Crash? 

The victims were identified as Roger Beggs, 76; Laura VanEpps, 43; Ryan VanEpps, 42; James VanEpps, 12; and Harrison VanEpps, 10.

The family was returning to Georgia after the tournament and according to reports were flying through an area of “storm activity,” the National Transportation Safety Board revealed Tuesday. 

An NTSB spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement that flight tracking data for the single-engine Piper PA-46 aircraft “was lost about 12 minutes after departure” from Alfred S. Nader Regional Airport in Oneonta on Sunday afternoon. 

“Preliminary information indicates that the plane was flying from Oneonta, New York to Charleston, West Virginia when it crashed under unknown circumstances,” the NTSB spokesperson added. “Meteorological data shows storm activity along the flight path.”

The plane was headed to Cobb County International Airport in Atlanta with a fueling stop in West Virginia when it crashed, the state police said.

Cooperstown is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  The town hosts hundreds of tournaments per year at Cooperstown Dreams Park, a 22-field baseball heaven that elevates it to a premier youth baseball tournament spot.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday called the incident “tragic,” via his X account, offered his deepest condolences and asked the public to join him and his family “in praying for the loved ones of the Beggs and VanEpps families.”

Cooperstown Throws Hundreds Of Youth Baseball Tournaments

The family was most likely returning from a tournament called “The Cooperstown Backyard Classic” that ran June 28-30 and offered competition in the 10U and 12U and 14U divisions, the most popular age group for travel baseball tournaments. Parents are usually most invested and still have control over their kids’ future as a player at these ages. They also develop personal relationships with other parents and the entire travel baseball culture becomes a part of their everyday lives and dreams. 

This was only a three-day tournament, so the 37 teams in attendance, according to the website, isn’t even close to what Cooperstown draws during its week-long tournaments. 

The Risks Of Playing Travel Ball 

One of the risks parents take with chasing these tournaments, in addition to the lofty costs and transportation, is the dangers that come with increased traveling and trying to meet deadlines. The travel is often on the weekends, when accident rates for car travel are higher. In this tragic case of the VanEpps family, they were flying from one destination to the next, in a private plane, and we have all heard too many instances of such modes of travel ending up in tragedy. 

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

Notable Private Plane Crashes 

Singer Patsy Cline, who was killed in a crash of a Piper Comanche in 1963, was neither the first nor the last popular musician to die in an airplane crash. 

Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates baseball legend and humanitarian, was killed in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico along with four others in 1972. 

The plane was carrying relief supplies to Nicaragua following a devastating earthquake there a week earlier. 

At the height of her career and having just finished shooting a video for her smash hit “Rock The Boat,” Aaliyah, a talented R&B singer and actress, tragically lost her life in a private plane crash on August 25, 2001. A Cessna 402 twin-engine light aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Marsh Harbour Airport in the Bahamas. The crash claimed the lives of the pilot and all eight passengers on board.

And if you ever saw the movie “La Bamba” then you are familiar with the plane crash that took singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, along with the pilot. Their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed in Iowa, in terrible weather, a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City on a flight headed for Moorhead, Minnesota. 

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