A small plane flown by Stephen E. Barnes, a former partner at one of the nation’s most famous personal injury law firms, crashed in upstate New York on Friday morning, killing him and a passenger, a lawyer with knowledge of the matter said.
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the single-engine plane fell in a woodland area near Pembroke, New York, about 32 miles east of Buffalo.
The attorney said that only two people – Mr. Barnes and his niece – who were on board the plane, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the Barnes family. Mr. Barnes was 61 years old, and his niece Elizabeth Barnes was in her late twenties.
William A. Sheron, Jr., Genesee County Police Chief, said in a statement that residents had seen the plane, which was heading east to west, landing at 11:46 am and exploding in some woods near Boyce Road. He confirmed the killing of a man and a woman, but did not immediately recognize them.
Sheriff Sherwin said the plane, a TBM 700 that can carry up to seven people, left New Hampshire around 10:18 a.m. and was supposed to land in Buffalo less than two hours later.
Nearly 30 years ago, Mr. Barnes & Ross M. Selino Jr. created Cellino & Barnes, a Buffalo personal injury law firm. They built it into a multimillion-dollar company that became a household name known for its catchy anthems on national television. It has employed more than 50 attorneys in five offices in New York State, and also has offices in California.
After their legal woes were settled in June, the former two partners were hired to lead separate companies, although it was unclear who would acquire the rights to the previous company’s phone number – (800) 888-8888 – which was made famous in thousands of commercials.
Mr. Barnes, who has survived three children, acquired ownership of the firm’s office in Buffalo and plans to rename it to Barnes, his new company, in the coming weeks.
“Steve has been a friend, colleague, partner and mentor of many people across our company,” The Barnes Firm said in a statement, adding, “Steve and Elizabeth will be sorely missed by many.”
On the night of the crash, Mister Celino put aside the intensity of the recent breakup. In a statement sent to The Times, he expressed his “deep sorrow” at the killing of his former colleague and Mrs. Barnes.
“He has always been a fearless advocate for his clients,” wrote Mr. Celino. “His death is a great loss for the legal community.”