Family and friends in Knott County are mourning the loss of three local women who died in a plane crash Wednesday.
Authorities confirmed Friday that victims of a plane crash in western North Carolina include the pilot from Nicholasville — Matthew Shuey, 27 — and three women from Knott County — Tiffany Maggard, 23, from Pippa Passes; Kassie Lynn Robinson, 22, from Redfox; and Miranda Morgan, 20, from Mousie. There were no survivors.
Kasie Amburgey, Robinson's second cousin, said the tragedy hit Knott County hard.
"There has been a major outpouring of prayers," she said.
A Facebook page was created shortly after the accident — called "Prayers for everyone involved in the plane crash" — offering words of sympathy and prayers for the victims and their families. The page, set up as an event, had more than 9,500 "attendees" as of Friday afternoon.
Posts on the page say a candle-lighting service is being planned in the near future to remember the three women.
"They were very good girls," Amburgey said. "It was just a joy to be around them."
Those close to Maggard said she was involved with family life. A student at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College in Whitesburg who dreamed of being a physical therapist, she had been married for about nine months. Originally from Knott County, Maggard was living in Leslie County.
Holly Centers, Amburgey's sister and a friend the women had been visiting in Auburn, Ala., said Maggard would "bend over backwards for her family and friends."
"Tiffany was one of the most kind-hearted," said Tammy Ashley, Maggard's aunt who said she helped raise Maggard. "She was so humble."
"She was very generous and always concerned about everyone else," Centers said of Maggard.
Maggard had a twin sister, Katie, and two brothers, Mark and Sam. Ashley said the twin's two children were Maggard's "pride and joy," and that she had wanted a family of her own someday.
"She just wanted to love everybody," Ashley said. "She was just a wonderful person inside and out."
Dorothy Robinson, Kassie Robinson's grandmother, said her granddaughter was a "beautiful, outgoing girl" who was interested in everything and always had a smile on her face.
"She would always make you laugh," Amburgey said. She said she and Robinson are great-granddaughters of Appalachian author Verna Mae Slone.
"She was very carefree," Centers said of Robinson. "She was always happy and always wanted everyone around her to be happy."
Robinson graduated from Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes on May 14 with a degree in biology and had planned to pursue physical therapy.
"She is definitely going to be missed," Dorothy Robinson said, "not only by the family but by everyone that knew her."
Miranda Morgan was a straight-A student who had just finished her sophomore year at Alice Lloyd, studying elementary education. She was a graduate of Knott Central High School, where she had been homecoming queen, said her cousin Amy Campbell.
"She was kind of quiet and kept to herself, but she always had a smile on her face," Centers said of Morgan. "I've never seen her upset or sad over anything."
Shuey went to Lexington Catholic High School and was a 2006 graduate of Centre College. His father, Steven E. Shuey, said his son had worked for Aero Resources Corp. for about two years.
Shuey contacted controllers at an airport in Knoxville at 4:12 p.m. Wednesday, declaring an emergency — a fire on board, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
A witness saw the plane descend, said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB. Knudson said the witness reported the plane was nearly vertical when it hit the ground.
NTSB investigators are trying to determine where the reported fire started.
"The challenge here is to separate the pre-impact fire from the post-impact fire," Knudson said. He said it is unusual to have a report of an onboard fire.
The NTSB will remove the wreckage and then attempt to reconstruct as much as they can at one of their sites, said Keith Lovin, sheriff of Cherokee County, N.C.