Steve Barnes’ niece killed in plane crash was dedicated attorney, family says

The niece of famed personal injury attorney Steve Barnes — who perished alongside him in a plane crash — was remembered by their family as a “wonderful” young woman and became a lawyer “because she wanted to help people.”

Elizabeth “Liz” Barnes, 32, was being flown by her 61-year-old uncle to attend her grandmother’s 90th birthday when their small aircraft went down Friday morning near Pembroke, New York, the Buffalo News reported.

“We’re kind of shattered here today,” her father Richard J. Barnes told the outlet Saturday.

“But I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words about my wonderful daughter. She was amazing. I was so proud of her.”

Richard worked alongside his brother Steve at the recently dissolved practice Cellino & Barnes, which is famed for its catchy commercial jingle.

He said he was at the firm Friday when two of his colleagues notified him about his brother’s crash.

“My friends didn’t know at the time that my daughter was on the plane, too,” Richard said. “I told them Liz was on the plane, and I literally collapsed to the floor. It was the absolute worst moment of my life.”

Elizabeth was serving at the time of her death as a government lawyer in Boston, where she was an assistant regional counsel with the US Department of Health and Human Services, the outlet reported.

Her father said she had decided to pursue the family trade at George Washington University Law School, where she graduated with honors and then “could have made big money working at a large law firm.”

“But she wanted to go into government service, because she wanted to help people,” he said.

He said the family is struggling to grapple with the sudden loss on a weekend that was meant to be a celebration.

“My mom was getting ready to celebrate her 90th birthday with all her loved ones, and this happens. In one instant, she loses her son and her granddaughter … This is so hard for her,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, but opted not to travel to the scene due to risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic, news station WIVB reported.

The agency said a preliminary report, however, will be issued on the crash in the next few weeks.

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