Upstate New York

Steve Barnes, of Cellino & Barnes Law Firm, Dead in Western NY Plane Crash

Attorney Steve Barnes was the pilot of the plane that crashed just before noon on Friday in western New York, killing him and his niece who was also on board, former law partner Ross Cellino said

Cellino & Barnes commercial
Cellino & Barnes

Personal injury attorney Steve Barnes, whose law firm Cellino & Barnes was known on two coasts for its catchy TV jingle, was killed Friday in a small plane crash in western New York.

Barnes, a registered pilot, died along with his niece, Elizabeth Barnes, his former law partner Ross Cellino said in a statement after the crash.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the tragic passing of Steve Barnes in a plane crash. Steve and I worked together for many years at our firm. He was always a fearless advocate for his clients," the statement from Cellino read. "His passing is a significant loss for the legal community."

The single-engine Socata TBM-700 crashed at about 11:45 a.m. in a wooded area near Pembroke, New York, authorities said, as it neared the end of a flight from Manchester, New Hampshire.

The plane was registered to a corporation that shares an address with Cellino & Barnes, records showed.

Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron told reporters there were no survivors in the crash, saying that that a man and a woman were killed. The victims have not been identified by police.

Neighbors described the plane making a loud, whining noise, then dropping into a wooded area, Sheron said.

Cellino & Barnes began as small firm in Buffalo but became well known in New York City and beyond for its ubiquitous advertising on billboards and on television.

Its old-time jingle, in which the law firm’s phone number was put to song, has been the subject of a sketch on Saturday Night Live, and other late-night TV host jokes for years. Broadway actors in 2018 posted viral videos of themselves singing the jingle in what was dubbed the “Cellino & Barnes Challenge.”

The firm declined to comment.

The law firm’s principal lawyers, Barnes and his partner Ross Cellino, appeared together in the advertisements, but had a falling out in recent years and battled each other in court.

Cellino said that Barnes is survived by his three children, and his longtime partner Ellen Sturm, who is also an attorney at the firm.

"All of us at Cellino & Barnes are deeply saddened," Cellino said in his statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating the cause of the crash. NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said the agency would release its initial report within seven to 10 days.

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