Lake Little was an 18-year-old pilot who was killed in a plane crash at the Ole Miss Golf Course in Oxford, Mississippi, on July 6. Little, of Starkville, was the lone occupant of the single-engine plane. She was rushed to a hospital in Memphis where she was later pronounced dead.
Little, whose full name was Elizabeth Little, was identified by police on July 7 as the pilot who died in the crash. She was a well-known member of the Starkville community who participated in pageants and received accolades for her academic and athletic achievements, according to the Starkville Daily News. Her brother says the college-bound Little had recently joined the National Guard.
“She loved this community. It would not have surprised me at all to see Lake, years from now, being the mayor of Starkville,” Jeremy Nicholas, the former head of school at Starkville Academy, told the Clarion Ledger. “Not only was she driven, she was relatable to people of all ages. She truly seemed to be one of those people that, you hear the phrase ‘larger than life,’ that was Lake. She had a presence about her that commanded attention and could win over the room as soon as she walked in. It’s been amazing but not surprising but that was Lake. She had her hand in so much stuff. Rarely have I seen a student her age who had a wide-ranging impact already. It’s going to be hard to put into words how much people miss her.”
Here’s what you need to know about Lake Little and the tragic plane crash that claimed her life:
Lake Little, Who Dreamed of a Career in Aviation, Was Practicing ‘Touch & Go’ Takeoffs & Landings at a Nearby Small Airport When She Crashed Onto the Golf Course
The fatal plane crash happened about 3:15 p.m. on July 6, the Oxford Eagle reports. The single-engine plane crashed near the 17th tee box of the Ole Miss Golf Course. Elizabeth “Lake” Little was the only person on board the plane and she was rushed to a trauma center in Memphis with serious burns. Little later died at the hospital, according to officials.
“We were on (hole) 9… It looked like it was landing and then aborted the landing and we saw it struggle to come back up,” a witness, Brian Scott Rippee, told the Eagle. “Then, when we were walking off the green it just fell straight down into the trees.”
According to the Starkville Daily News, Little was practicing “touch and go” takeoffs and landings at the nearby small airport when she crashed.
Little was piloting a plane affiliated with the Mississippi Civil Air Patrol when she crashed, the Starkville Daily News reports. The golf course is located next to a small airport that is also owned by the University of Mississippi. The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“No one on the ground was injured,” University of Mississippi spokesman Rod Guajardo said in a statement. “The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration have been contacted and will investigate the scene of the crash. We will provide further updates as they become available.”
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss told The Commercial Appeal the plane that crashed was a Cessna 172. Weiss told the newspaper that he had no other details about the crash. He said a preliminary report about the incident would be released in about two weeks.
Little had a lifelong interest in flying and recently obtained her private pilot’s license. She dreamed of a career in aviation, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Little wanted to one day fly for FedEx, according to her profile for an upcoming pageant competition.
On June 15, she wrote a Facebook post along with a photo from an airplane she was flying. “It’s nights like these at 5,000 feet that I feel the most thankful to be from the beautiful state of Mississippi! Mississippi is not just a place it’s a person, that goes with us no matter where we are. You might hear people say ‘There is no better place than Mississippi,’ but I say there are no better people than Mississippians. That is why I am doing Miss Hospitality to help promote this amazing State through tourism and economic development to others hoping everyone will choose to experience a little slice of heaven, too.”
She Is Survived by Her Father, Who Is a Starkville Alderman, Her Mother & Her 2 Brothers
Lake Little is survived by her father, David Little, who is an alderman in Starkville, her mother, Pattie Little, and two brothers, Layton Little and Patton Little.
“The City of Starkville is saddened by the loss of Lake Little. She was a star for us and had such a great plan for her life commitment to others. Flying was her love and her passion. Our thoughts and prayers to her family for comfort,” Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said on Twitter.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant wrote in a statement posted to Facebook, “Such sad news about Lake Little. A beautiful light has passed from this world far too soon. Deborah and I pray the dear Lord would assuage the pain and grief of her parents and family.”
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill tweeted, “The City of Oxford mourns alongside those of you in Starkville. Prayers for peace and comfort for the family of Lake Little and for all of those who loved her. May God wrap His loving arms around you.”
Little Graduated From Starkville Academy in May, Was Planning to Study at the University of Southern Mississippi in the Fall & Had Recently Enlisted in the National Guard
Lake Little graduated from Starkville Academy in May, according to the school.
In a statement, Starkville Academy said, “The Starkville Academy family is grieving the loss of one of our own. Lake Little, who graduated this past May, was a kind hearted, talented, and inspiring young woman who brought joy to so many people. We are overwhelmed by the support sent by so many of you since learning about this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Little family. ‘He will not leave you or forsake you.’ –Deuteronomy 31:6.”
Little was in the National Honor Society, played soccer and tennis, was a cheerleader and was on the homecoming court, the school said. She was also a regional finalist for a national Coca-Cola scholarship. She was one of four students inducted into the Starkville Academy Hall of Fame when she graduated, an honor that is chosen by teachers based on academic achievements and community involvement. Her principal called her a “go-getter” who was an important part of the school.
“Anything she aspired to do and she set her head to do it, she really thought she would do it,” Carol Berryhill told the Clarion Ledger. “She was passionate about everything she did but she had a way of making everyone around her feel important. She just had a way with people …She was such a part of our school and she made us proud in everything she did. She was an inspiration to all of us.”
Little was planning to study at the University of Southern Mississippi in the fall. According to her biography on the website for an upcoming pageant she was participating in, “Lake is majoring in Speech Pathology and Audiology at The University of Southern Mississippi, and hopes to one day open her own speech pathology clinic to help children and the elderly while maintaining an aviation career. Lake founded ‘Reading Matters,’ an organization that impacts hundreds of children’s lives in the state of Mississippi.”
On July 4, in her final tweet, Little wrote, “AMERICA, I LOVE YOU.” After her death, Little’s brother replied to the tweet and said that his sister had recently joined the National Guard.
“America, she loved you! She loved you so much she enlisted in the National Guard! She was so proud to take her oath just a few weeks ago to serve our State and Country. She might not have held a title for our military, but she was a true General for the Lord. I am so proud,” Layton Little tweeted on July 7.
Little had enlisted in June in the Mississippi Air National Guard and was going to be a C-17 loadmaster, a National Guard spokesperson told the Clarion Ledger.
Her other brother, Patton Little, told WMC-TV that she loved to serve others. She had recently been on a service trip to Belize, Patton said.
“She was a great sister. She was a great person. She was one of a kind,” he told the news station.
She Was Named Starkville’s ‘Miss Hospitality’ Pageant Winner Earlier This Year & Planned to Take Part in the Statewide Competition on July 26
Little named Starkville’s “Miss Hospitality” pageant winner in February and planned to compete in the statewide Mississippi’s Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism pageant on July 26 and July 27.
“Lake had a vibrant personality. She was full of life and lived it to the fullest,” Starkville Miss Hospitality director Angella Baker told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “She was very passionate about flying and had just recently received her private pilot’s license.”
The statewide pageant wrote on Facebook, “It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we mourn the loss of one of our Miss Hospitality family members, Starkville’s Lake Little. The loss of such a bright, shining young life is devastating, and our entire organization is heartbroken. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Little family and countless others impacted by Lake’s sweet and beautiful spirit.”
The statement added, “Through her grace, intelligence, and passion for her community and state, Lake epitomized the highest virtues of Miss Hospitality. Her light will forever shine as an incredible example to us all.”
In her role as Miss Hospitality for Starkville, Little helped promote her hometown and also volunteered around the city. On June 30, she wrote on the Miss Hospitality Facebook page about reading to kids at a local library.
“It’s one month until competition and I got to spend today reading and dancing at the Bookmart downtown!” she wrtote. “The children loved Pete the Cat books and the Pete the Cat dance! Skylar was the best listener and dancer! She definitely knew how to hit the air guitar ? Thank you Starkville BookMart for having me, I had so much fun today!”
She wrote along with a photo of her family on June 21, “My family has shaped me into who I am today. Thankfully the community of Starkville has became my family, too! I want to thank each and every person who has invested time and energy into me. I am extremely grateful for you and your support! Teachers from school, leaders at church, and friends I will be forever thankful for you!”
In December 2018, Little ran in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon to raise money for children battling cancer. She wrote on Facebook, “I’m choosing to run for more than myself. I’m using my running to help save kids’ lives by fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as I train. I’m running for kids who might be too sick to run today, but who could one day be running alongside me because the money I raised helped find a cure for childhood cancer.
She was also involved in Distinguished Young Women of Starkville and the organization wrote on Facebook, “We are so heartbroken over the passing of this incredible and vivacious young woman whose joy and positivity affected those around her. We were blessed to know her. Prayers for comfort and strength for her family and friends.”
Tributes Have Poured in on Social Media for Little
Tributes to Lake Little have poured in on social media from those who knew her.
“Heartbreaking. Lake was Starkville’s Miss Hospitality for a reason. She was so kind and always so much fun to be around. Rest In Peace Lake Little. You will be missed so very much. Please pray for the Little family,” Sam Snell wrote on Facebook.
Cheryl Andrews added in a Facebook post, “Lake gave me the biggest hug the other day that will now have to last a lifetime. She was bigger than life and had her life mapped out with career path, studies, scholarship, achievements and goals on chart, her dreams were awesome and we knew she could achieve them.. When we spoke she was getting ready for the Miss Hospitality Pageant and wonder what awards she would brought to Starkville.She was a very special person.”
Taylor Caraway said on Facebook, “Anyone who works with youth groups know that there are always a few kids in each group that you’re gonna remember even after just a weekend or so. Lake Little was one of those for First Starkville. I’ve had the privilege of working a couple retreats and being around a few Wednesday nights for this group. I didn’t know her well, but well enough to be friendly every time we saw each other. … I haven’t been able to get her off my mind since last night when I heard about the tragedy that took her life. Death is one of those things that never gets easier. Especially when it’s a student with their whole life ahead of them.”
Caraway added, “I’ve always thought we were on earth to love God, love people and Live life to the fullest. Even though I may not have known her well, I knew her well enough to see that she understood those 3 things. She made an impact on those around her. And even though she’s gone way too soon, that impact will be felt and remembered forever. Praying for Lakes family, friends and that entire Starkville community.”
Tonya Boatman Stewart wrote on Facebook, “Let me start by saying something I told Lake Little all the time: ‘there will never be another quite like you.’ As Amanda Creel Tullos said, ‘Lake always had her peoples back.’ I thought of lake little as Miss Starkville- she was our neighbor and one of our 1 st Starkville friends. She would come in from the start and make herself at home. I’ll never forget the time I came home to Lake in Marlee’s bed eating a snack & watching tv. I was like where is Marlee? Lake replies, Idk I just wanted to come hangout here with yall! From that point on I knew she was my kind of people.”
She added, “Such a special soul- Charming, daring, Lovable, driven, determined and caring! There was never a time that she didn’t meet me with a big hug and love you Ms. Tonya! Lake Little my heart is breaking, love you my angel girl.”
Little’s cousin, Kyle Ladner, tweeted, she, “was my first cousin and an amazing person. This world didn’t get to experience her true potential. Heaven gained an angel, but we lost a true difference maker. Someone that loved people and made everyone feel special.” He added that she, “was special and loved serving others. I was always amazed how she could make everyone feel special. Our family’s heart is broken and prayers are welcomed. Please pray for the Little family.”
Charlie Winfield tweeted, “I am struggling to comprehend the loss of Lake Little. Bright, daring, spunky, expressive, positive, friendly, unyielding. I wish I had adequate words. I shall miss her terribly, and so shall our world. A great person from a great family.”
Starkville resident Sid Salter tweeted, “Six weeks ago, this magnificent young lady spoke to the Starkville Rotary Club and shared her passions and accomplishments. Today, our club joins her family and friends in shock and grief at her untimely passing. Please pray for Lake Little’s family. May God enfold them.”