Cause of injury attorney Stephen Barnes’ fatal 2020 plane crash remains unclear


NEW YORK — Federal investigators haven’t been able to determine why a prominent personal injury attorney lost control of his plane and crashed in 2020, killing him and a passenger.

The crash near Corfu, about 15 miles east of Buffalo, killed Stephen Barnes and his niece, Elizabeth Barnes. Stephen Barnes was half of Cellino & Barnes, a firm known for its catchy TV jingle.

In a report Friday, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Barnes, a registered pilot, lost contact with air traffic controllers for about 25 minutes on the flight from New Hampshire to Buffalo, then reestablished contact about 30 miles from Buffalo and said “everything’s fine.”

Shortly afterward, the single-engine Socata TBM-700 began to descend at high speed, entered a spiral dive and crashed in some woods.

READ MORE (10/2/2020): Steve Barnes, High Profile Lawyer, Reportedly Killed In Upstate New York Plane Crash

The fact that Barnes was still at a cruising altitude of 28,000 feet that close to his destination “suggests a clear breakdown in awareness of his position through distraction or impairment,” the NTSB found. But the report concluded Barnes’ communication with controllers was clear and didn’t suggest any impairment at that moment.

The NTSB attributed the probable cause of the accident to the pilot’s “failure to maintain control of the airplane for undetermined reasons during the descent to the destination airport.”

Cellino & Barnes began as small firm in Buffalo but became well known in New York City and beyond for its ubiquitous advertising on billboards and television.

Its jingle, in which the law firm’s phone number was put to song, has been the subject of a sketch on “Saturday Night Live” and of other late-night TV jokes for years. Broadway actors in 2018 posted viral videos of themselves singing the jingle in what was dubbed the “Cellino & Barnes Challenge.”

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