12-Year-Old Boy Who Died in Plane Crash with His Family Hit Grand Slam in Last Game, Coach Says

"I will remember him as the ultimate human," read the coach's tribute for James R. Van Epps, 12

<p>Facebook</p> The Van Epps family


The Van Epps family
  • In a Facebook post, baseball coach Frank Tumminia Jr. shared footage of James R. Van Epps hitting a grand slam during a baseball game, which took place shortly before he was killed in a June 30 plane crash

  • “Mistakes are how kids learn, it’s part of the evolution. JR did not make mistakes… in any facet of his life," Tummnia wrote about the boy

  • The NTSB said in a statement shared with PEOPLE that there was “storm activity along the flight path" of the aircraft that carried members the family members

A boy who was killed in an upstate New York plane crash along with his family hit a grand slam shortly before the doomed flight.

Frank Tumminia Jr., identified by the Times Union newspaper as a baseball coach of the late James R. Van Epps, shared video footage of the 12-year-old boy hitting the homer in a recent tribute.

“In his last game in Cooperstown NY, where youth athletes dreams are made with storybook backgrounds and brackets full of several dozen teams… JR Van Epps crushed a GRAND SLAM,” the coach wrote.

Related: Parents of 3 Identified as Victims Who Died in California Plane Crash: 'Heartbroken by This Loss'

“Mistakes are how kids learn, it’s part of the evolution," the coach continued. "JR did not make mistakes… in any facet of his life— relationships, school, and goodness gracious if you’ve been hit by him then you know…any time he touched the field."

“Today and for as long as I live I will teach the living testimony of JR. A piece of me left with him yesterday afternoon," Tumminia added. "I will remember him as the ultimate human.”

On July 1, New York State Police (NYSP) announced the crash of a Piper Malibu Mirage aircraft in an area along Lake Cecil Road in Masonville, New York.

The agency said five people onboard the plane were killed: Laura Van Epps, 43 (a family relative later said her age was 41); Ryan Van Epps, 42; James R. Van Epps, 12; Harrison Van Epps, 10; and pilot Roger Beggs, 76.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Police said the victims were all family members from Georgia, noting they were in Cooperstown for a baseball tournament.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on July 5, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the June 30 incident, said – based on preliminary information – the Piper aircraft was leaving Oneonta, New York and flying to Charleston, West Virginia, when it crashed “under unknown circumstances.”

Related: North Carolina Father and Son Killed After Plane Crashes in Virginia Cornfield

The agency added that there was “storm activity along the flight path,” according to meteorological data.

“All major portions of the plane have been located except for the rudder…The plane has been recovered to an offsite facility for further evaluation,” the NTSB statement read in part.

A final report detailing a probable cause of the crash could come in 12-24 months.

Related: Former Astronaut Texted Friend to Say He’d be Flying Past Her House Before Deadly Plane Crash

In a statement shared via Facebook on July 1, Ansley Van Epps, sister of Ryan Van Epps, wrote that as the family grapples "with this unimaginable loss, let us come together to remember and celebrate the beautiful lives they lived. Their kindness, laughter, and love will forever be etched in our hearts."

“Please keep their loved ones and our family in your thoughts and prayers during this incredibly difficult time,” Ansley added. “May we find strength and solace in the memories and the outpouring of love from all who knew them.”

Ansley later told PEOPLE that they are heartbroken and still processing what happened, but that they're also grateful for the outpouring of support shown in the aftermath of the tragedy.

In a post on X, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp acknowledged the victims, writing on July 1:  "As we learn of this tragic news, please join Marty, the girls, and me in praying for the loved ones of the Beggs and VanEpps families. We offer our deepest condolences to all who knew and loved them.”

Oneonta Women’s Softball, based in upstate New York, also paid tribute to the family, sharing photos of league members taking a moment of silence and softball gloves lying on the field.

“Tonight, we take a moment of silence for Cooperstown Baseball Dreams Park ball player JR Van Epps and his four family members who lost their lives in a tragic plane crash on their route back home yesterday,” per the league's July 1 Facebook post. "Never forget to hold those you cherish close; they can be gone in an instant 💛 For the love of the game 🥎”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.