SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A private jet apparently experiencing mechanical trouble crashed Sunday in a northern Indiana neighborhood, hitting three homes and killing two people aboard the plane, authorities said.
The Beechcraft Premier I had left Tulsa, Okla.’s Riverside Airport and crashed late Sunday afternoon near South Bend Regional Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig in Oklahoma City said. Two of four people aboard the plane were killed, Herwig said.
It was not clear if anyone on the ground was killed, and Herwig did not have any additional information.
South Bend Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Maggie Scroope said three people injured in the crash were being treated there; one was in serious condition and two were in fair condition. Scroope did not know if they were on the plane or the ground.
The plane was registered to 7700 Enterprises of Montana LLC in Helena. The company is owned by Wes Caves and does business as DigiCut Systems in Tulsa, Okla. It makes window film and paint overlay for automobiles.
A woman identifying herself as Caves’ wife answered the phone at their home Sunday and said, “I think he’s dead,” before hanging up.
In South Bend, Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said everyone on the plane and in the first house struck by the jet had been accounted for four hours after the crash. That wasn’t true of the other two houses, and Corthier couldn’t say how many people they were still trying to track down.
Investigators from the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were expected to arrive on the scene Sunday night, Corthier said.
Part of the neighborhood southwest of the airport was evacuated after the crash, and Corthier said some residents could be allowed back into their homes Sunday night.
Mike Daigle, executive director of the St. Joseph County Airport Authority, said the jet attempted a landing about 4:15 p.m., went back up and maneuvered south to try another landing, but eight minutes later the airport learned the plane was no longer airborne.
“There was an indication of a mechanical problem,” Herwig said.
Stan Klaybor, who lives across the street from the crash scene, said the jet clipped the top of one house, heavily damaged a second, and finally came to rest against a third. His wife, Mary Jane, regularly watches planes approach the airport.
“I was looking out my picture window. The plane’s coming, and I go, ‘Wait a minute,’ and then, boom,” she said. “This one was coming straight at my house. I went, ‘Huh?’ and then there was a big crash, and all the insulation went flying,” she said.