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5 children among those killed in Soldotna crash

Andrew Shain,Adam Beam
courtesy The State (Columbia, S.C.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The nine South Carolinians killed in Sunday's crash in Soldotna included a family of five and a family of four, both from Greenville, in the northwestern corner of the state, according to family friends and law enforcement sources.

So far, Alaska officials have only identified the pilot, who also died. He is Walter Rediske, of Nikiski.

Milton Antonakos, his wife, Kimberly, and their three children -- 16-year-old Olivia, 14-year-old Mills and 12-year-old Anna -- were on the plane, according to state Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, who was a neighbor of the family.

Chris McManus, his wife, Stacey, and their two children -- Connor and Meghan -- also were on the plane, according to their pastor, law enforcement officials and family friends.

"I just can't believe it," Bannister said of the Antonakos family. "They were on the plane, on a family vacation, and they are not coming back."

Bannister, a lawyer, said he met Milton Antonakos several years ago when he represented him in a legal matter. He described a loving family that took care of each other and their neighbors.

"Anna is in my son's class and got basically every award you can get at the fifth-grade awards day," Bannister said. "Mills, the boy, every morning would go out and get (his neighbor's) newspaper and take it to his porch so he didn't have to walk out on the driveway."

Bannister said Milton Antonakos was "one of those people that would just spend any amount of time that he needed to with his kids," while Kimberly always was volunteering at her children's schools. Bannister said several of the children were on a local swim team.

"They were just an absolutely fabulous family," he said.

Olivia Antonakos was a rising junior at J.L. Mann High School, where she was a varsity basketball player and just had been elected secretary of the student body. Most of her basketball teammates were playing in a tournament in Atlanta, a tournament Olivia skipped to vacation with her family, according to Charles Mayfield, the school's principal.

While students are on summer break, Mayfield said, the J.L. Mann Student Council has delivered flowers to the Antonakos house and left a guest book there for mourners to sign. Mayfield said the Antonakos' neighborhood planned a prayer service Monday evening.

"It's just a loss for the school and for the whole community," Mayfield said. "They were just good people. They thought of others before they thought of themselves. To lose the whole family, it's just really shocking."

The McManus family made Marshall Johnson and his family feel welcome when they recently moved into their Greenville neighborhood.

"They were very easy going," said Johnson, whose wife once taught Connor McManus at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville. "They were beautiful."

Connor McManus was working with his father, a radiologist, to earn the Boy Scouts' highest rank, Eagle Scout, Johnson said.

Meghan McManus, a rising senior at Christ Church Episcopal School, was looking at colleges with her family, Johnson said. Her sophomore project last year was on the "Ronald McDonald House: Keeping Families Together," according to the school's website.

The pair were acolytes at Christ Church Episcopal this spring and were involved in youth programs.

Stacey McManus was a board member of the Episcopal women's group at the church, had worked with the hand bell choir, and taught Sunday and vacation Bible school, said the Rev. Harrison McLeod, rector at Christ Church Episcopal. She also helped run the auction at the school's annual gala this spring.

"She did all that with a smile on her face," McLeod said.

Chris McManus was very "caring and thoughtful" and dedicated to his medical patients, the reverend said. Several parishioners came to the church Monday to pray for the McManus family.

In addition to their dedication to the church, the family was known for always being together.

"This vacation was indicative of who they were," McLeod said. "They enjoyed each other's company. They were a wonderful example of how a family can play together and get the most from each other."

McManus was past president of the state chapter of the American College of Radiology and an officer of the Greenville Hospital System medical staff.

"He has been a wonderful asset to the medical community," said Dr. David Williams III, chairman of GHS' radiology department. "He was an extraordinary physician but also an extraordinary human being who was known to be both compassionate and conscientious."

This is the second Alaska airplane crash in little more than a week to claim the lives of South Carolinians.

Two people -- 74-year-old John Ellenberg of Greenville and 52-year-old Laurie Buckner of Simpsonville -- were killed in the June 28 crash of a tour plane near Cantwell, that also claimed the life of the pilot.

 

 


By ANDREW SHAIN AND ADAM BEAM
The State (Columbia, S.C.)