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The Great Smoky Mountains serve as the setting for yet another heartbreaking tragedy WBIR-TV screenshot
WBIR-TV

There has been much talk in recent days about how cruel 2016 has been and how death seems to be lurking around every corner lately.

But, some stories have been more tragic than others.

RELATED: Dolly Parton’s ode to her ravaged ‘Tennessee Home’ will nearly break your heart

Take for example the heartbreaking story of 41-year-old David Starling, his 8-year-old son Hunter Starling and 42-year-old Kim Smith, who were recently identified by the National Park Service as victims of a plane crash within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was also the setting of the wildfires earlier this year.

The three Florida residents were travelling in a Cessna 182 to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area on Dec. 26 to spend the holidays. But according to WJXT News4Jax, a Facebook post from the family says they had also planned the trip specifically to help the victims of the recent fires in the Gatlinburg area.

RELATED: The mayor of wildfire-ravaged Gatlinburg opens up about his own personal tragedy

“Just waiting and not knowing anything is what’s really hard right now,” Kim’s cousin Samantha Hodges told the Florida television station before the wreckage had officially been found. “They were about 13 minutes away from landing. That was the last time they spoke to her.”

On Dec. 28, a rescue team recovered the bodies of the three victims, according to WBIR-TV.

We send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the victims.

Tricia Despres is a senior correspondent for Rare Country, based out of Chicago. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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