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Utah State Board of Education member, wife and 2 children killed in Missouri plane crash

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PROVO — A member of the Utah State Board of Education was killed Friday along with his wife and two of his children when their small plane crashed taking off from a family-owned runway in a small Missouri town.

Mark and Amy Openshaw, both 43, died in the crash, along with their children, 15-year-old Tanner and 12-year-old Ellie, according the Missouri Highway Patrol. Max Openshaw, 5, was taken by medical helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, in critical condition.

Mark Openshaw was also the bishop of the Edgemont 8th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Neighbors passing the empty Provo home Friday remembered the Openshaw family as examples of loving kindness to all they met.

"(Mark Openshaw) was a man that would look after you, who would serve the community," said Thomas Muir, a neighbor. "Even the children would say, 'What can I do for you?' They were people who would give, people who would truly serve their fellow man."

The family was visiting Mark Openshaw's parents and was attempting to take off from a private runway on their property just before 7:30 a.m. Friday, Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Cody Fulknor said.

"They crashed right at the end of the highway, right next to the house," Fulknor said. "It's a very small Missouri town. They're very well known in the area. As you can imagine, anytime something like this happens it's tragic, but especially when the family that was there witnessed the plane crash."

Muir recalled happy conversations with Mark Openshaw as he strolled through the neighborhood just to chat and a 50th birthday party that Amy Openshaw surprised him with.

Tanner Openshaw earned his Eagle Scout award in February and last month was named the Provo Daily Herald's Eagle Scout of the Week. Tanner said his favorite merit badge was Wilderness Survival and that his goals for the future included serving an LDS mission and studying either computer programing or architecture in college.

"It just doesn't seem fair," Muir said.

The family has two older sons, one serving an LDS mission and another studying abroad, he said.

Liz Paxman taught Ellie in fifth grade and remembers the girl as "a good friend" who was a gifted writer and had a special love for animals. Ellie was the Openshaws' only daughter.

"She was kind of the princess of the family," Paxman said. "But she could hold her own, too."

Paxman's family bought the Openshaws' home several years ago, and Mark Openshaw was her LDS Church bishop, so she interacted with Ellie outside of school as well. Ellie also played goalie for a local club team called the Provo Thunder, Paxman said.

"Ellie was just extremely happy and kind to everyone," Paxman said. "She was an extremely smart little girl."

Mark Openshaw was a licensed pilot and would often fly to visit family, according to Muir. Police indicated he was piloting the small Beechcraft that was bringing the family back to Utah when it crashed.

The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

Members of the Utah State Board of Education and other state officials mourned Mark Openshaw's death Friday.

"Our hearts go out to his family. I have known him to be deeply passionate about Utah's public schools, and his death is a significant loss to our community. Mark had a way of brightening every room that he entered, and I will personally miss that," said David Crandall, board chairman.

Openshaw was in his second term serving on the board and was chairman of the Law and Licensing Committee.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes called Openshaw a "champion of education reform" who was dedicated to advancing available technology and innovation in the classroom.

"Mark has been an invaluable leader, but more importantly, he has been a close colleague and my friend. I will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those close to the Openshaw family during this sad and difficult time," Hughes said.

Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said the crash cost the state "a strong leader and a good man," joining others in voicing support for Openshaw's family.

"Mark was quick to volunteer his time, energy and expertise. We are all appreciative of his willingness to serve in this significant position, and grateful for the good he did. Mark represented an area larger than any legislative district on issues as important as any state faces. We recognize the great sacrifice that his family made as he gave his time, and we are deeply grateful to them for supporting him," Niederhauser said.

A replacement for Openshaw on the Utah State Board of Education will be nominated by the governor and must be approved by the state Senate, according to a board spokeswoman.

Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday, "I am shocked and saddened to learn today of the tragic passing of Mark Openshaw and members of his family. He was a strong advocate for Utah students and exemplary in his service on the State Board of Education. His service also extended to his community and church. He will be greatly missed."

Openshaw was the co-founder and president of AirComUSA, a Utah-based tech company, and was also involved in agriculture and ranching, according to his biography. He called himself an "outdoor sports enthusiast" who served with the Boy Scouts of America and listed his interests as cycling, skiing and aviation. He was a graduate of Brigham Young University.

Contributing: Morgan Jacobsen, Ashley Kewish

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero; DNewsCrimeTeam