Prominent Lawyer Steve Barnes of Cellino & Barnes Dead Alongside Niece After His Small Plane Crashes

Steve Barnes, the prominent attorney best known as one half of the legal team Cellino & Barnes, has died after his plane crashed in upstate New York.

Steve's niece Elizabeth Barnes also died in the crash Friday, his former longtime legal partner Ross Cellino confirmed.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the tragic passing of Steve Barnes in a plane crash," Cellino said in a statement to The Buffalo News.

"He was always a fearless advocate for his clients. His passing is a significant loss for the legal community."

Cellino said "Steve's greatest accomplishment" was his children Josiah, Rachel and Julia. Steve is also survived by his longtime love Ellen Sturm.

"Equally heartbreaking is the passing of Elizabeth Barnes, sister of Brian Barnes and daughter of Rich Barnes, Stever's brother and an attorney at our firm."

The fatal incident unfolded around 11:45 a.m. in a wooded area near Pembroke, New York, the Federal Aviation Administration confirms to PEOPLE.

An initial statement from the FAA said a "single-engine Socata TBM-700 crashed," but it was unclear how many people were on board at the time and the extent of the injuries for those involved.

The FAA, along with deputies from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the New York State Police arrived at the accident site to investigate through the afternoon, PEOPLE confirms.

Local newspaper The Daily News also reported that Corfu and East Pembroke Fire Departments, as well as the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, responded to the incident, which occurred about a mile into the woods, was not visible from the main road in Corfu and involved a six-passenger plane.

"[The airplane was] pretty much disintegrated," Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron said during a press briefing, according to The Buffalo News. "There's not much left at all."

Based on the N-number provided to PEOPLE by an NTSB spokesperson, the plane was registered to an owner at 350 Main Street, Suite 2500 in Buffalo — the same address as a former Cellino & Barnes office.

Multiple reports on Twitter indicated that Barnes was a registered pilot.

A spokesperson for the Barnes Law Firm, as well as the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Corfu Fire Department, East Pembroke Fire Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request to comment.

A former Marine Corps officer and combat veteran of the Gulf War, Steve became a well-known attorney after becoming a partner with Ross Cellino in a law firm that ultimately became Cellino & Barnes, according to his website.

The Buffalo-based duo teamed up in 1992 and worked together for nearly three decades before Cellino filed to dissolve the firm in May 2017 following a series of disagreements and built-up tensions, New York Magazine reported. It took three years before the terms of their split were officially agreed upon this June, according to the New York Post.

The business partners, who at one point in their career were earning $500,000 per year, were behind some of the biggest personal injury cases and the incredibly catchy jingle of "Don’t wait! Call 8!" per New York Magazine.

After officially ending their partnership, Steve went on to form his own law firm, The Barnes Firm Injury Attorneys. His site currently states that he specialized in cases involving airplane accidents, drunk driving accidents and wrongful deaths, among others.

One of his last accomplishments was leading a trial counsel in a Manhattan products liability case that resulted in one of the largest settlements in American history, according to his website.

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