Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Arizona town mourns Wesley Chapel family killed in plane crash

A third of Round Valley High School is gone after a plane, carrying a family of four, crashed into it Friday afternoon. The school is in the town of Eagar, Ariz., 15 miles west of the New Mexico border, on the slopes of the White Mountains. This is not just a school — it's the school, teaching 500 students from Eagar, Springerville and other small towns in this rural area.

People here aren't worried about rebuilding.

They are mourning.

The family who died — Jeffrey Ulrich, 50; his wife, Ronni, 47; and daughters Alexa, 15 and Carlie, 5 — were strangers who lived nearly 2,000 miles away in Wesley Chapel. Yet the people of Eagar are grieving, leaving flowers and candles, homemade signs and teddy bears at the school gates.

More than 200 people held a vigil Monday night. Students plan to create a college scholarship in Alexa's name. The town wants to hold another vigil Friday and is talking of creating a permanent memorial.

"Not a soul is worried about the school or their classrooms or what's going to happen," said Karen Warnick, 58, who covers Eagar, Springerville and the other nearby towns for the White Mountain Independent.

Her office windows rattled when the plane crashed. She was on scene within minutes, along with hundreds of residents who ran to see what happened. So many people were on their cell phones that service, usually spotty, shut down.

No one on the ground was hurt. Normally, students would have been inside, but budget cuts eliminated summer school this year. Last week the board decided to give staff Fridays off. The day of the crash was their first.

Warnick said most people at the scene were silent, in shock and now, days later, still crying.

"We are worried about them and their family — not our school," she said.

Mike Hogan, 50, is the chief of the Eagar Police Department, which has 10 officers. Springerville has nine. Together, the towns have about 7,000 residents — many ranchers, power plant and timber workers. The school system is a main employer.

Hogan and his officers held a procession Tuesday afternoon to lay flowers at the school grounds, in honor of Ulrich — who was a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — and his family.

"Please tell the rest of the family we are sorry for their loss," Hogan said.

Authorities are still investigating the crash, and it may be months before they determine what went wrong. The crash happened shortly after the plane took off from an airstrip in Springerville. Sgt. Richard Guinn of the Apache County Sheriff's Office said it appears Jeffrey Ulrich was attempting to gain altitude when the plane hit a light post and a tree, then crashed into the two-story school.

Ulrich was a pilot with more than 20 years experience. The family was heading west on a vacation to the Grand Canyon.

Eastern Arizona residents have reached out online through a Facebook page created in memory of Alexa, who just finished her sophomore year at Wiregrass Ranch High School. Her friend Jack Whidden, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Wiregrass Ranch, has been writing back to these kind strangers who send messages of condolences.

"I'm blown away," Whidden said. "A small town who just had their high school destroyed is having a vigil for a family they've never met who lived thousands of miles away.

"Round Valley has got to be the nicest area in America."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

Remembrance vigil

There will be a service for the Ulrich family at 8 p.m. Friday at the football field at Wiregrass Ranch High School, 2909 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. The school is asking people to bring flashlights instead of candles. Family members, teachers, students and other community members will speak at the service.

Arizona town mourns Wesley Chapel family killed in plane crash 06/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 1:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.