NEW YORK (AP) – Personal injury attorney Steve Barnes, whose two-coast law firm Cellino & Barnes was known for its catchy TV jingle, was killed in a small plane crash in western New York on Friday.
Barnes, a registered pilot, died along with his niece Elizabeth Barnes, his longtime legal partner told the Associated Press.
The single-engine Socata TBM-700 crashed around 11:45 a.m. in a wooded area near Pembroke, NY as it neared the end of a flight from Manchester, NH
“His death is a significant loss to the legal community,” said Barnes’ legal partner Ross Cellino. “He’s always been a fearless advocate for his clients.”
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The neighbors described the plane making a loud, wailing noise, then falling into a wooded area and exploding, said Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron. He said the plane was destined for Buffalo.
The aircraft was registered with a company that shares an address with Cellino & Barnes.
Cellino & Barnes started out as a small company in Buffalo, but became known in New York City and beyond for its ubiquitous advertising on billboards and television.
His old-time jingle, chanting the law firm’s phone number, has been the subject of a Saturday Night Live sketch and jokes from other late night TV hosts for years. The Broadway actors released viral videos of themselves in 2018 singing the jingle in the so-called “Cellino & Barnes Challenge”.
The law firm’s principal attorneys, Barnes and Cellino, appeared together in the ads, but have had an argument and fought each other in court in recent years.
Barnes is survived by his longtime partner Ellen Sturm and three children.
“We all at Cellino & Barnes are deeply sad,” said Cellino.
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The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the cause of the crash. NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said the agency would release its first report within seven to ten days.