12 members of Atlanta family die in Kenya crash
Retired Emory doctor was sharing Africa's beauty with kin
By DAVID SIMPSON
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A team of Kenyan investigators reached the site Monday where a chartered aircraft slammed into Mount Kenya, killing three generations of a prominent Atlanta family and two South African pilots, officials said.
The twin-engine Fairchild turboprop was carrying physician George Brumley and 11 family members to a game reserve when it hit Point Lenana, a peak of Africa's second-highest mountain, as a cloudy sky was beginning to clear before sunset Saturday, said Bongo Woodley, senior Kenya Wildlife Service warden in charge of Mount Kenya National Park.
The 21-member team of police investigators and Kenyan Wildlife Services recovery workers on Monday began sifting through the wreckage that was scattered over a large area at around 16,000 feet, said Kubai Severino, a police official. The cause of the crash was still not known.
Rangers based below the crash site reportedly found no survivors when they visited the site late Saturday but recovered eight American passports.
Brumley decided on Mount Kilimanjaro two years ago that he had to share Africa's beauty with his family.
So he began planning a safari for a dozen relatives this summer. Children and grandchildren would join the 68-year-old patriarch on a tour of African game reserves.
The trip ended tragically Saturday when all 12 family members – spanning three generations – and the two pilots were killed.
The dead include Brumley and his wife, Jean; three of their children and their spouses, and four grandchildren. Five other grandchildren – two in Atlanta and three who stayed in Johannesburg, South Africa, are left orphaned.
In Atlanta, the Rev. P.C. Enniss Jr. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, where many of the victims worshipped, said he had spent much of the day Sunday with the victims' relatives.
"They're just in total shock, as everyone in the church family is," Enniss said. "These people were the heart of Trinity Presbyterian Church as much as anybody else. They were involved in every mission, every governing decision, everything.
"They were just loved by every member of the congregation, and they were just like family," he said.
Brumley, a retired head of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, and his wife, a tireless volunteer fund-raiser, were well known leaders in arts, education, health and their church. Jean Brumley was helping to raise money for the new concert hall for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Brumley's foundation invested in a neighborhood southeast of Atlanta, starting the Whitefoord Community Program to address health issues and ensure children's success at school.
"In every community there are families that set a standard in terms of their civic support and their spirit of generosity," said Neil Williams, chairman of the board of the Woodruff Arts Center, who has known George and Jean Brumley since they were students at Duke University in the mid-1950s. This family "typifies that for me. They did what they did with the most remarkable selflessness. Not looking for big credit, just wanting things to be better."
Brumley was in his late 60s when he joined about a dozen Atlantans to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, said Dr. William McClatchey, a longtime friend who also went on the climb
"He came back from that experience saying he wanted to take his family," McClatchey recalled Sunday night.
His wife, Jean, "wasn't sure about the safari, doing the outdoor thing. But she was going for the family," said Allison Vulgamore, president of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, where Jean Brumley was a board member.
The couple joked about Jean's reservations in the letter they sent to family and friends at Christmastime last year, saying that "it should be a great trip provided certain family members can adapt to the wild; stay tuned for next year's report on Jean and the bucket shower."
Brumley was not to be deterred when the scheduled air service he planned to take to Nairobi was canceled due to terrorism concerns. He flew his family to Johannesburg and arranged for the charter plane so he could lead them on a trip to African game reserves.
The plane was to circle Mount Kenya to give the family a close view before heading to the Masai Mara reserve in western Kenya, McClatchey said.
Rangers at Mount Kenya National Park heard the crash of the twin-engine Fairchild turboprop Saturday evening.
The plane hit Point Lenana, the third-highest peak on Africa's second-highest mountain, as a cloudy sky was beginning to clear just before sunset Saturday, said Bongo Woodley, senior Kenya Wildlife Service warden in charge of Mount Kenya National Park.
Peter Wakahia, a Kenyan civil aviation official, said debris was scattered on two rock outcrops on either side of the point of impact.
The overseas air tragedy reminded Williams of the 1962 plane crash at Orly Field in Paris that killed 106 Atlantans, including a number of arts leaders.
"I can remember as a much younger person in Atlanta feeling so stunned when I heard of the Orly crash," said Neil Williams, chairman of the board of the Woodruff Arts Center. "This isn't an Orly crash in terms of numbers, but in terms of quality and influence on this city, it is."
Jim Tsokanos of Manning, Selvage and Lee, a public relations firm in Atlanta, identified the dead as:
George Brumley Jr., 68, and his wife, Jean Stanback Brumley, 67.
George Brumley III, 42, his wife, Julia Preston Brumley, 42, their son George William Brumley IV, 14, and daughter Jordan McNeill Brumley, 12. They lived in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Elizabeth Brumley Love, 41, her husband, William Jenkins Love, 41, and their daughter Sarah Jennings Love, 12, of Atlanta and London. In England, Bill Love represented Atlanta-based Printpack, a packaging company with plants in the United States, Mexico and Britain. Their three younger children had stayed behind in Johannesburg because they were too young for the safari trip.
Lois Brumley Morrell, 39, her husband Richard Morrell, 43, and their son Alexander Brumley Morrell, 11, of Atlanta. They left their two young daughters at home in Atlanta. The Rev. Kim Richter, pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, N.C., told The Asheville Citizen-Times that she accompanied Morrell's mother to Atlanta on Sunday to break the news to the girls.
The Brumleys' surviving children, twin daughters, live in Atlanta: Marie Brumley Foster and Nancy Brumley.
Elizabeth Brumley's marriage to William Love was a connection to another prominent Atlanta family. Love was one of six children born to Gay and J. Erskine Love Jr., who founded PrintPack in 1956.
Erskine Love died of a heart attack in 1987 at age 58, leaving the company in the hands of his wife and their children. Bill Love worked alongside his mother and siblings to continue PrintPack as a family-run business, which employs 4,500 people and had 2002 sales of $1.1 billion.
Brumley was medical director of Egleston Children's Hospital, now called Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, while at Emory. While he was pediatrics chairman, he increased the size of the faculty from 45 to 200.
After retirement, he and his wife focused on charitable ventures in which all of his children participated.
At Trinity Presbyterian Church, the elder George Brumley recently chaired a committee to choose a new pastor, and Jean Brumley helped lead an $18 million capital campaign.
McClatchey said Brumley's life progressed from one remarkable stage to another: skilled neonatologist; medical administrator at Duke University and then Emory; and a philanthropist who wanted results, not credit.
His approach seemed to be summed up as he climbed Kilimanjaro. Brumley wasn't interested in reaching a particular peak.
"He kept saying everyone who climbed . . . would have a personal summit," McClatchey recalled.
And Brumley found his at a mile-wide volcanic crater.
"His personal summit was the crater," McClatchey said. "He said this is as far as I'm going today."
Profiles of the victims