Madison man dies in Paraguay plane crash

Madison man dies in Paraguay plane crash

Owner of pet kangaroo that escaped last month


MADISON — Keath Killebrew was on a special mission scouting land in the underdeveloped Chaco region of Paraguay where he and his family plan to plant a cotton farm and build a community with schools, churches and homes when he died in a private plane crash there on Friday.

A Tchula native, Keath Gwin Killebrew, 44, was remembered as a hard-working Christian man and “a gentle giant who gravitated toward children,” said his wife, Dr. Alyssa Killebrew, a child psychologist.

The Killebrews were in the news last month when their two-year-old pet kangaroo Rocky escaped from their yard and went on a 5-mile trek around Madison and northern parts of Ridgeland before hopping back home. Rocky is used in pet therapy with children on their farm near Flora.

On this particular trip to Paraguay, Killebrew was on a special mission for the Killebrew Cotton Company and the Mississippi Development Authority, his wife said.

“He was scouting land in the Chaco where he and his family wanted to build a furrowed cotton farm and community with schools, churches and homes in an undeveloped region known as the Land of Opportunity in South America,” Alyssa said.

Keath and twin brother Heath have amassed over 17,000 acres of farmland in and around the Mississippi Delta teaching employees how to grow crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and watermelons, she said.

Cotton is their main crop, though, and that they “could have grown it on concrete if there was a way,” Alyssa said.

Keath Killebrew was one of three Americans who died when the small plane in which they were traveling from Salto del Guairá Airport to Chaco crashed, according to the Paraguayan news agency Chaco al Día.

Keath Killebrew was popular in their Madison neighborhood off Lake Castle Road.

“The nextdoor neighbor boys, Leo and Fletcher Quick, would wait by the front door watching for Keath to get home,” Alyssa said. 

“When he arrived, their father, Martin, would scream, ‘Sons, let the man get out of his truck first.’ He trained them to abide by rules, guided and encouraging them like they were his own. They both dress like him in a collared white button downs, blue jeans and boots.” 

Keath Killebrew is survived by his daughter Vivian, and Alyssa is pregnant with their first son, who will be named after Killebrew.

Alyssa said her husband “adored being a father” and would tell anyone who would listen, “If I had known how much I would love being a daddy, we would have started much earlier, and we would have a schoolyard of kids.”  

Alyssa said that even before they had children, she would describe him as “a gentle giant who gravitated toward children.” 

Killebrew’s niece, Sarah Scott Sellers, said that she will forever remember when he sat her down and taught her that being on time means getting there early and showing up is half the battle.

Alyssa said that having children came after “years of infertility and loss.” 

She said they lost an unborn daughter to COVID-19 in 2020. In her memory, they created a camp called SEK, pronounced “seek,” on their farm in Flora, which is named after their child Sara Elizabeth Killebrew. The meaning is biblical from Matthew 7:7 “Seek and Yee Shall Find, Ask, and It Shall be given unto you.” 

Alyssa Killebrew said her husband was a “rare and special breed” and that her “life was never the same after I found him at the tender age of 14.” They were high school sweethearts at Central Holmes Academy.

Killebrew was born on Horseshoe Lake in Tchula to Zack and Pam Killebrew and the family later moved to Lexington. He has an older sister, Dr. Heather Tutor, and the identical twin brother Heath.

“He is my angel now,” Alyssa said.

She said his favorite Bible verse was 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

She described him as an artist, a master chef and a gentle giant who loved to travel the world. And he loved to hunt and fish.

“Keath was an honest, loyal, hard-working Christian man with deadpan wit,” Alyssa said.

Commissioner Cesar Gonzalez of the National Police confirmed the crash of the small plane about 30 miles from the city of Mariscal Estigarribia in the area of the indigenous community of Macharety, the Chaco al Día said in a Facebook post.

Three people, two men and a woman, died in the impact, Chaco al Día reported. Alyssa said that the crash remains under investigation. The crash was reported about 3 p.m. Dec. 3, officials said.

Paul Andrew Rust, 32, an American living in Paraguay, was identified as the other man. The third victim has been identified as Heike Stefanie Schroeder Weins, 26, of Paraguay.

Alyssa said her husband was on his “last great adventure” and his latest “dream based on a mutual partnership vision to help underserved populations in another country.”

She said that he has met with the president of Paraguay and other local business leaders and diplomats in South America over the past few years. 

The farm in Flora is where Rocky the kangaroo lives and is a major part of the camp experience.

It was at the camp that the couple taught lessons about life. Keath taught his lesson through cotton. Alyssa said he would give each child a cotton plant and would teach them how to care for it. Which he said was an analogy for life.

“This camp will continue on in memory of Keath and Sarah Elizabeth,” Alyssa said.

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