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Friends, family mourn Georgia couple killed after private plane crashes in Wyoming

Husband was longtime pilot
Schell plane crash
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 20:10:01-04

BILLINGS — Friends and family are mourning the loss of a Georgia couple who died last week when their private plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest near Buffalo, Wyoming.

Charles and Kelli Schell took off from Powell, Wyoming around 12 p.m. on Thursday, July 14 in their Cessna P210 with Charles - an experienced pilot - flying to Buffalo. A Salt Lake City air traffic controller reported the plane missing to the Johnson County Sheriff's Department the following day. Later Friday, the U.S. Forest Service was called to a fire near the Willow Park Reservoir in the Bighorn National Forest and discovered the plane wreckage.

"I'm going to struggle with it, my wife is going to struggle with it for a long time," said Hank Didier, a longtime friend of the Schells.

Schell spent 12 years as a U.S. Army aviator, working mostly with Apache helicopters. Didier said Schell also had his private license for decades, flying all across the country including multiple trips to Wyoming and Montana.

Charles Schell
Charles Schell was a longtime pilot, first flying for the U.S. Army from 1991-2003 and then flying private planes for decades after.

"Almost all of their vacations they would fly themselves," Didier said. "I traveled to Montana with Charly last year, fishing along the river. We fell in love with the vista, the beauty of the area. That really stuck with Charly."

The Schells landed in Powell on July 5 according to flight records. Posts on their respective social media accounts show the couple around Red Lodge for most of the time between July 5-14, hiking trails and eating at local restaurants.

"I would never think twice about flying with Charly," Didier said. "He was an excellent pilot and took it very seriously."

"If a person’s been trained in the military, it’s very good training," added Dan Hargrove.

Hargrove directs Rocky Mountain College’s aviation school. He knows summer in the Rocky Mountain region can be tricky for even the best pilots.

"Airplanes don’t work as well when the air is thin and the air is hot," he said. "In the summer, the air is just bumpier."

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The Schells' plane crashed about 15 miles from their destination of Buffalo. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has not released any details on a cause as of yet. The one thing friends know: the couple died doing what they loved.

"It’s the freedom to be able to move around anywhere you want, when you want," Didier said. "His passion drove me into flying. I’ll continue to do it and think about them when I do."

The Schells always tried to help others, no more so than through Toughest Kids, a charity they founded to help children going through adverse circumstances in life. Kelli was still the chairman of the board.

"Kelli was the nicest, warmest human being you’ve ever met," Didier said. "I truly learned what charitable giving and selflessness looks like from those two."

If you’d like to pay your respects, consider making a donation in the Schells’ honor here.

Schells hiking
Charles and Kelli Schell were hiking near Red Lodge in the days before they were killed in a plane crash near Buffalo, Wyoming.