Friday, July 12, 2024



A single engine private plane crashed into a Porter area neighborhood around 10 p.m. on August 23, 2010 after a missed approach landing at Williams Field. The plane struck a tree as it went nose down on Oak Knoll Drive at Old Houston Road, about 50 feet from a residence.  The pilot survived the crash and was pulled from the wreckage by Joseph Branstetter,  who lived nearby.  He was responsive, but had head trauma that was serious but not believed to be life threatening according to medical personnel. Montgomery County Hospital District medics transported the pilot to a landing zone at Williams Field where a PHI Air Medical helicopter flew him to the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The pilot was identified as Court Koenning, age 37 of Humble.

Steve Richards, who lives on the next street, said he heard a loud crash and when he went out to investigate, he saw the downed plane and jumped the fence rushing to help the pilot, along with James Bachelor – another neighbor.  But  it was 21-year-old Joseph Branstetter who first reached the pilot. Branstetter and his mother Cathy live in the  residence where the plane crashed. While Cathy Branstetter dialed 911, her son ran out to the plane. With no regard for his own safety, he ignored the strong smell of spilled fuel as he and neighbor Gregory Cook pulled the pilot from the plane. Cook called Joseph Branstetter “a real hero,” but Branstetter was reluctant to take credit for his heroism.

The pilot was upside down and twisted with his back toward the men, Joseph Branstetter said. He was covered in blood, but was conscious and they tried to keep him awake, Branstetter said. Removing the victim from the plane was “a little hard,” he said.

Multiple agencies were on-scene, including the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Porter Fire Department.. The FAA is investigating and will be on the scene throughout the day Tuesday.

According to the FAA the Cirrue aircraft in which he was flying is equipped with a parachute. In case of an engine failure the pilot can deploy it. In Monday night’s crash the pilot deployed the chute but due to it’s close proximity to the ground it was ineffective.

Last night the same young man who risked his life to save that pilot took the lives of his parents Cathy Gibbs and Randall Wayne Branstetter. He is now in the Montgomery County Jail charged with two capital murder.

A the victims 12-year-old grand-daughter called 911 and told dispatchers that her uncle just shot her grandparents.

When deputies arrived they found Randall Wayne Branstetter, 54 inside the home shot to death.

In addition they found Cathy June Gibbs, 58, outside the home shot to death.

Both shot with a handgun.

Both were pronounced dead by Montgomery County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts who ordered Eickenhorst Funeral Directors to transport the victims to the Montgomery County Forensic Center.

An attempt to locate was issued across the county for the son of the victims identified as Joseph Samuel Branstetter, 24, who also lived in the home.

Law Enforcement began the search for Branstetter who was driving a black Ford pickup with a gold stripe and a Harley Davidson sticker in the back window.

Approximately 11 pm Joseph Branstetter drove up to the scene, parked his truck and calmly walked to the police line stating, “I’m the one”, and identified himself to deputies. He was quickly taken into custody.

On Tuesday Branstetter was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for one count of Capital Murder.

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