Community says goodbye to those lost in crash

Students and faculty at Mitchell Elementary School remembered Kobe and Xander Barksdale on Thursday (April 3) with a balloon release on the soccer field.Students and faculty at Mitchell Elementary School remembered Kobe and Xander Barksdale on Thursday (April 3) with a balloon release on the soccer field.

 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

Family members, friends and the community said goodbye this week to five Etowah County residents who perished when a small plane plunged into a Colorado reservoir on March 22.

Funeral for Gadsden businessman Jimmy L. Hill was on Monday (March 31), while a funerals for Katrina Barksdale and her two sons, Kobe and Xander, and her nephew Seth McDuffie, were on Tuesday (April 1).

The four members of the Barksdale-McDuffie family were honored in a memorial service Tuesday night at CrossPoint Community Church. At the request the families, many of those present wore sports jerseys and bright colors to celebrate the young lives lost.

The plane crash occurred on the afternoon of March 22, as the five occupants of the plane were headed for Montrose, Colo. for a spring break trip.The plane crashed into a reservoir in Ridgway State Park in Ouray County, Colo. Retrieving the plane from the water took several days, and the state park remained closed until the recovery was completed. The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the cause of the crash, as it does all aircraft crashes.

During the April 1 meeting of the Etowah County Commission, commission member Jeff Overstreet spoke of the tragic lost of the five people on board the plane, noting that he’d known the pilot, Jimmy Hill, for more than 20 years, and knew the other families involved as well.

During the time when Colorado authorities were working to recover the plane and those on board, Overstreet said he reached out to Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett, thanking her for the effort Ouray County and other surrounding response agencies were making on the behalf of the Etowah residents. He said he didn’t expect a response, but one came late last week.

“Thank you for this email, it came at a perfect time to lift my spirits when I was extremely frustrated we couldn’t get the recovery specialists on-site sooner,” Padgett wrote to Overstreet. “Our teams were exhausted by the end of Thursday, as this was a complex, multi-agency/multi-jurisdiction response effort. 

“I passed on your kind words to our teams last Tuesday,” she wrote.

 “Jimmy, Katrina, Kobe, Xander and Seth all feel like they are part of our community too and this tragic incident has touched us all very deeply,” Padgett continued. “I am so sorry for the loss of such great people and I know that they are dearly loved and missed by all who were lucky enough to know them.

“The fact that it happened at our local treasure, Ridgway State Park, which is a place five minutes from town and is enjoyed by many local families –including ours — for sunsets, fishing, kayaking, stand up paddling, and playing with dogs is very tough,” Padgett wrote.

“Our kids are very close to the boys’ ages (9, 12, 13),” she said. Padgett’s message closed by asking that Overstreet let her know if their was anything she could to for the families or for the Etowah County community.

Overstreet said Ouray County had people on site around the clock from the time of the crash until the plane and the people on board were recovered.

He expressed his appreciation for the work all emergency responders do when a tragedy like this one occurs.

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