GARDNER, Kan. — Federal aviation authorities are beginning to gather evidence to determine the cause of a plane crash near Branson West Sunday, that took the lives of a Kansas couple.  Their family and friends are speaking out.

Joyelle Low Buckley, a sister-in-law of Dawn Mustain Curtis, released a statement Monday on behalf of the family.

“Our hearts are clearly broken as we are all trying to process this tragedy,” Buckley said. “Dawn Mustain Curtis and Keith Curtis, Sr. of Garner, Kansas, were just married November 11, 2017, after several years of dating. They were the type of people that made you happier when you were in their presence.”

The family said the couple was on their way to Branson West to begin a pre-Christmas vacation. Buckley said Dawn had a learner’s pilot license and Keith had just received his pilot’s license last fall.

“They loved to travel, were adventurous, and loved life, loving it all the more together,” Buckley said in the statement.

Parents of the couple Norman and Vickey Eagleton, of Blue Springs, Missouri, arrived in Branson Sunday for the same vacation and will be staying “until the many details involved can be attended to properly.”

The family thanked the Stone and Taney County Sheriff Departments “for their compassionate, prompt communication with us”, the first responders and the employees at Subway in Hollister, Missouri “who stayed way past closing last night to accommodate us in our grief.”

The family also thanked the witnesses which shared their accounts of the crash privately with the family almost immediately through Facebook.

“Tragedies like this remind all of us that life is precious and short and should be cherished at every turn,” Buckley said. “We will get through this with the power of faith and the love of family and friends, one day at a time.”

KCTV spoke with a long-time friend and neighbor of Keith Curtis.

“He’d do anything for anybody. if your car broke down he’d come and get you, if you needed money he’d give it to you,” said John Walterman, a family friend.

“All we can do is try to help this family at this time to get through all this,” Walterman said. “You know, it is tough for me, but it’s tougher for them.”