During the overnight hours last night, The University of Southern Mississippi was notified of a tragic plane accident that involved the family of a student who was preparing to participate in Commencement exercises later today, as well as a family in the local Hattiesburg community.
When emergency crews arrived on scene, they confirmed a civilian aircraft had crashed into a home. The Federal Aviation Administration has been contacted to handle the investigation, which remains ongoing.
According to the Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict, the victims in the Tuesday night plane crash have been identified as the following:
– Gerry Standley, 55, of Hattiesburg
– Louis Provenza, 67, of Texas
– Harper Provenza, 2, of Texas
– Anna Calhoun, 23, of Texas
“My heart breaks for our student and her family, and for our community members and their family,” University President Rodney D. Bennett said. “The University extends our deepest condolences and our thoughts and prayers to all those who are affected by this tragedy during this time of great loss.”
Melinda Standley, her husband Gerry, their daughter Arrianna, and grandson Eli were all in the house when it caught fire. Melinda and the two children were able to get out of the house with only minor injuries. Unfortunately, Gerry passed away in this accident. A GoFundMe can be found at http://bit.ly/gofundmegerry.
All money donated will help Melinda and her family during this time to help with funeral expenses, bills, replacing items they lost in the fire, and any other financially related needs they may have arise.
“We mourn the loss of Gerry Standley with his wife Melinda and their family, those in his faith community, his co-workers at Warren Paving and all who knew him and called him a friend,” Mayor Tony Barker said. “The other family includes a student at Southern Miss, who should be getting ready to face the next chapter of her life and all of the celebrations that come with college graduation today.”
In response to the plane crash, Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources will be available in the Irene Chapel Neighborhood for onsite crisis and grief counseling at Edwards Street Fellowship starting Wednesday, May 5, through Friday, May 7, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Student Counseling Services (SCS) is also available to support members of the Southern Miss community during this time. SCS can be reached at 601-266-4829 during regular business hours and after 5 p.m. and on weekends at 601-606-4357.
If you find any debris or wreckage in your yard and/or property that you believe is connected to the crash, do not touch or remove it. Instead, please contact the Hattiesburg Police Department at 601-467-7556.
“Over the next several days and weeks, I ask that you continue to think and pray for all involved,” Barker said. “Additionally, I ask that you also pray for the first responders who were on the scene last night into the early hours of today. They wrestled for hours through debris and wreckage to search and recover.”