Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ulrichs' plane never stabilized after takeoff in Arizona

Jeffrey and Ronni Ulrich, top right, and daughters Alexa, left, and Carlie are being mourned in Wesley Chapel and Arizona.

Ulrich family photo

Jeffrey and Ronni Ulrich, top right, and daughters Alexa, left, and Carlie are being mourned in Wesley Chapel and Arizona.

The flight began with a rocky start.

After taxiing across the Springerville Municipal Airport, the small Piper aircraft carrying the Ulrichs seemed to cover too much runway during takeoff. Then the plane began rocking side to side as it lifted off ground, rising and dipping in waves.

What happened next shocked a family, local friends and a community across the country: Jeffrey, 50, who was a pilot, Ronni, 47, Alexa, 15, and Carlie Ulrich, 5, all of Wesley Chapel, died after their plane crashed into Round Valley High School in Eagar, Ariz.

Federal investigators said the official cause for the June 11 crash could be months away. But a preliminary report, released this month, depicts a plane that never seemed to stabilize before nosediving into the school and exploding.

Compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board, the report features statements from three unidentified witnesses.

One man said the plane appeared to have trouble gaining altitude, climbing and sinking about three or four times after takeoff.

Another man who was repairing one of the school's walk-in freezers heard the plane overhead and ducked for cover. It seemed to be flying too low, he said, though its engine didn't sputter and seemed to be running strong.

A woman driving nearby on Main Street heard the plane and saw it lose height quickly as it flew toward the school.

The plane banked counterclockwise before crashing into the side of the building, less than a mile from where it had left the runway. An early claim that the plane circled the school before diving was debunked, said crash investigator Joshua Cawthra. The plane was in the air about one to two minutes.

Friends of Alexa's at Wiregrass Ranch High School and people who lived near the crash site organized separate vigils across the country to remember the family, who had flown out west to visit the Grand Canyon. Strangers in Arizona who had only seen pictures of the Ulrichs began planning a permanent memorial to the family and a scholarship in Alexa's name.

In response, relatives of the Ulrichs have begun researching how they can return the favor to the community that saw much of its high school building destroyed. Ronni's sister Karyl Partridge, who lives in Boynton Beach, said their family is planning to send money to the Round Valley communities of Eagar and Springerville.

"They're pouring their love and prayers out to us," Partridge said. "We want to send our support out to them."

Contact Drew Harwell at or (727) 869-6244.

Ulrichs' plane never stabilized after takeoff in Arizona 06/28/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 28, 2010 10:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PSTA, wary of future cuts, keeps property tax rate steady

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority stands to lose $2 million a year if voters approve an expansion to Florida's homestead property exemption on the 2018 ballot.

    One of The PInellas Suncoast Transit Authority's hybrid busses. The PSTA's governing board voted Wednesday to maintain the current property tax rate. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  2. Rays power way to 5-1 win over Orioles on eve of crucial road trip

    The Heater

    St. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn't get many hits in the early going Wednesday, but they got a couple that went a long way and that was enough to beat the Orioles, 5-1.

    Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) hugs catcher Jesus Sucre (45) after Souza's solo home run in the seventh inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  3. Man accused of sexually assaulting 5-year-old girl


    ZEPHYRHILLS — Pasco sheriff's deputies have charged a Zephyrhills man with sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl in his care.

    Brett Campbell [Photo Courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Florida GDP growth in first quarter 2017 ranks 21st among states, still outpacing U.S.

    Economic Development

    Florida's gross domestic product or GDP rose 1.4 percent in the first quarter, slightly faster than the nation's growth of 1.2 percent and placing Florida 21st among the states for growth rates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    Not too hot. Not too cold.

    These Jackson Square Townhomes began hitting the west Hillsborough County market late last year and continued to be sold into the first quarter of 2017. The real estate sector was the biggest driver of Florida's gross domestic product, which rose 1.4 percent in the first quartrer of 2017.  [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. Coming to Netflix in August: 'The Defenders,' 'Death Note' and more

    Krysten Ritter, Finn Jones, Charlie Cox and Mike Colter in Marvel's The Defenders.