Stephen Barnes of Cellino & Barnes dies in plane crash

UB alum and “iconic” NY personal injury attorney killed in plane crash Friday morning


A plane piloted by Stephen Barnes, a UB School of Law graduate and former partner of Cellino and Barnes, crashed in Genesee Friday, killing him, 61, and his niece Elizabeth Barnes, 32. 

Barnes and his niece were travelling to Buffalo from New Hampshire, for Barnes’ mother’s birthday when the plane crashed.

Genesee County residents reported the plane going down at 11:46 a.m. and exploding in the woods near Boyce Road, according to Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. Barnes and his niece were the only two in the aircraft. 

The Barnes Firm issued the following statement Friday night:

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we acknowledge the loss of Steve Barnes and his niece Elizabeth Barnes following a tragic accident earlier today. Steve was a friend, colleague, partner and mentor to so many people across our firm, in New York, California and beyond. He was a legal industry giant, proud Marine and loving father. Steve and Elizabeth will be sorely missed by many. Our utmost condolences go out to his family and closest loved ones during this very difficult and unfortunate time.”

An investigation into how the plane crashed was expected to begin Saturday, however, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board announced they will not be traveling to the scene due to the COVID pandemic. NTSB said the need for an investigator to travel is on a case-by-case basis taking in factors and risks. An investigation can take 12 to 24 months.

In June, Barnes and his law firm partner Ross Cellino announced their official split into two firms: Cellino Law and The Barnes Firm. But despite the split, Cellino looked back on their almost three decade-long partnership calling Barnes a “fearless advocate.”

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

As well as being known for their infectious jingle, Cellino and Barnes have also made notable contributions to the UB School of Law. 

In recognition of their $1 million gift, one of the largest donations on record, UB’s law school renamed 509 O’Brian Hall the “Cellino & Barnes Conference Center.”

The UB Council described Cellino and Barnes as “highly accomplished, successful, civic-minded attorneys” who have “long been good friends and dedicated alumni” of the School of Law.

Alexandra Moyen is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at and on Twitter @AlexandraMoyen


Alexandra Moyen is the editor in chief of The Spectrum.