Team rallies around girl after Detroit air tragedy

Charles E. Ramirez and Eric Coughlin
The Detroit News
NTSB agents work at the site of a small-plane crash in a field on Milton, west of Van Dyke in Detroit on Monday.

Krysta Boaz's father, stepmother and brother were supposed to watch her compete this week in the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship at Cobo Center.

The three were flying in from Texas Sunday evening when their single-engine plane crashed in a vacant lot near Detroit City Airport, killing Greg and Julie Boaz and critically injuring Peyton Boaz, according to family and friends.

Hours after the tragedy, Krysta took to the court with her teammates and is leaning on them as she copes with the tragedy, team coach Mary-Margaret Armstrong said Tuesday.

"She woke up in the morning and when the team came to surround her with love, she already had her uniform on and she was ready to go," the coach said. "I think it's a much-needed distraction. There's a lot of darkness around her and we're the light."

Krysta and her teammates are holding up well, considering the circumstances, Armstrong said.

"They're surrounded by the love and faith and strength of God," Armstrong said. "Krysta's doing the best she can. Everybody's taking her under their wing, parents, players and coaches. She's amazingly strong." 

A statement from the directors of the Absolute Volleyball Academy in Texas said on the club's website, "Members of the Boaz family were traveling to #GJNC in Detroit when this horrific accident happened. 

"We are saddened by this tragedy and loss of loved ones. Please pray for Greg and Julie whom were called home and let's pray for a full recovery for Peyton Boaz ...  as he receives the best care available.

The girl, who is in Detroit with her biological mother, also played in the tournament Tuesday. Both declined to speak to reporters.

"She's never once questioned playing," Armstrong said.

Read morePlane crashes, bursts into flames near City Airport

USA Volleyball officials also expressed members' sympathies in a statement Tuesday.

“USA Volleyball sends its deepest condolences to USAV member Krysta Boaz and her family and friends," the group said. "We also send best wishes for a full recovery for Krysta's brother Peyton, who was injured in the crash. USAV will hold a moment of silence to honor the family before the start of play at Girls' Junior Nationals on Wednesday, June 27.”

The Cessna 210 crashed about 8 p.m. Sunday in the 3500 block of Milton Avenue near Van Dyke, about a mile from the airport.

On Monday, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said the plane's pilot reported trouble with the aircraft’s landing gear and low fuel.

Read morePilot had low fuel, landing gear problems in crash

Officials also said Monday there is no probable cause for the accident or conclusions about what caused the crash. The agency’s investigation could take up to a 18 months to complete.

Andrew Fox, an air safety investigator with the NTSB, said the plane was registered to an owner with an address in Texas and he bought the 1978 aircraft in April. Federal records show the plane is registered to Greg Boaz.

Fox said the plane had departed out of West Memphis, Arkansas, about 4:42 p.m. EST with Detroit City Airport as its destination. The pilot requested about 60 gallons of fuel while at the Arkansas airport.

He also said the plane's pilot had at least 650 hours of flight time experience.

A woman named Christy Cargill Buck, who identified herself as a relative of Boaz, said on Facebook late Monday she planned to bring Peyton Boaz's grandmother to Detroit to be with him and that the young man is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday.

"Still at a loss for words," she said in a Facebook post. "This is something you see on TV but never expect it to be your family. My cousin Greg Boaz and I were just texting Saturday night as I was sitting at his restaurant in Kemah.

"Greg said he would love to come visit but was flying out the next morning. If I only knew that would be the last time we ever talked."

Sophie Nilssen, a friend of Peyton Boaz, set up a Gofundme account to help with his medical bills. So far it has raised more than $2,600 toward a $5,000 goal.

"He is a bright light in a dark world, he's stood by me through every bad decision and stupid mistake," Nilssen wrote in a Facebook post. "I can't remember life without him. He is family."

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez