Northwest Arkansas insurance agent, entrepreneur killed in plane crash

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 5,590 views 

Brant Barnes, an independent insurance agent, real estate investor and entrepreneur, died Friday (Jan. 6) in a plane crash in Washington County.

According to a Facebook post from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), Barnes, 43, of Tontitown, was piloting a Beech M35 fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft when it crashed off North Smokey Bear Road near Drake Field southeast of Fayetteville.

The sheriff’s office says it received the report at 5:57 p.m. on Friday. Deputies arrived on the scene at 6:03 p.m. and located the crashed plane.

Barnes was a Shelter Insurance agent in Fayetteville. He also had real estate holdings and was a Papa John’s restaurant franchisee.

Fayetteville entrepreneur Mark Zweig, an entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, said he and his wife visited with Barnes on Friday morning to discuss new business opportunities.

“We are in shock,” Zweig said. “We spent about an hour and a half with Brant talking about business, flying, problems with planes, risk tolerance, life insurance we each had, and what he wanted to do this year: spend more time with his family.”

Zweig said Barnes was starting a new business venture in south Fayetteville to provide delivery vehicles to other pizza franchise owners nationwide.

“He loved to travel,” Zweig said. “He was very generous with his time trying to help his people learn about business, and he spoke to my New Venture Development students every year.

“Brant was a tremendous entrepreneur and was always doing something new and exciting.”

Northwest Arkansas podcast host Randy Wilburn hosted Barnes in 2021 on the “I am Northwest Arkansas” podcast.

“The cool thing about Brant is that he doesn’t just own an insurance agency — his dad was a long-time insurance agent in Mountain Home — but he also has a knack for running businesses,” Wilburn said.

The WCSO said a crash investigation is ongoing.