Daughter of killed Round Lake pilot in Florida crash dies

A second person — a Round Lake teen — has died after a spring break plane crash in Florida over the weekend that also killed her father and seriously injured a friend.

Jeffrey Bronken, 53, who was piloting the plane, was killed in the crash Saturday morning outside Clearwater. His daughter Katherine Bronken, 15, died from her injuries Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

The third passenger, Katherine’s friend Keyana Linbo, 15, has been upgraded to stable condition, a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa said Wednesday evening, after she was initially taken there in serious condition after the crash.

Jeffrey Bronken and the two girls — both Grant Community High School students — were headed to Florida for a spring break trip and planned to spend a couple of days there, neighbor and friend Ken Hoxie said.

The single-engine 1980 Piper aircraft took off from Chicago around 6:30 p.m. Friday evening. It was traveling to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and crashed at about 4 a.m. Saturday morning about eight miles north of its destination.

It came to a rest with its nose to the ground on the median of a six-lane street in Pinellas County, authorities said. No one was injured on the ground, but the plane clipped a two-inch-thick power line strung between two towers, shutting off electricity to the area.

It’s unclear what caused the crash or whether Bronken was trying to land on the street. According to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration, he had radioed to air traffic controllers that he was having fuel problems.

“He always appeared to me to be very conscientious about everything related to flying,” said Hoxie, calling Jeffrey Bronken a veteran pilot.

“There’s no way to understand it,” Hoxie said Wednesday after the passing of Katherine. “It’s something that you try to understand and there’s just no way to.”

Katherine Bronken was a student at Grant High and a Chicago Blackhawks and Bulls fan, according to her Facebook page. She was the sister of Christine and of Tom Bronken, a former senior guard with Grant High’s Bulldogs basketball team.

Grant Community High School District 124 Superintendent Christine Sefcik said the entire school community is grieving over the “tragic accident.”

“It’s more tragedy that any family should have to endure,” Sefcik said Wednesday. “A correspondence went out to the families this evening. Our first priority is that students know we have some support for them.”

The school is on spring break this week, but immediate support is available for those who need it, she said. On Monday, when classes resume, a team of psychologists, social workers and counselors will be on hand for students to visit as needed, Sefcik said.

Both Katherine and Keyana are freshmen at Grant. Katherine was managing a softball team, while Keyana is a member of the team, Sefcik said.

“The family has always been very active at Grant High School,” she said.

Sefcik knew the family personally, after they established a scholarship in the name of their daughter Christine, a former honors student and cheerleader at Grant killed in a snowmobiling accident in December 2009 at age 20.

“It’s a wonderful family, and my heart goes out to them,” Sefcik said.

Jeffrey and Katherine are survived by wife and mother Susan Manna Bronken, of Round Lake. The Bronkens were married 27 years, according to an obituary by Moss Feaster Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Largo, Fla. They’re also survived by son and brother, Tom. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the crash and will issue a preliminary report within two weeks of the crash date, according to Peter Knudson, public affairs officer for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Plans are underway for a memorial service at St. Bede Parish in Ingleside.

• Daily Herald staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy and Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.