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March 18, 2013

2 killed when jet crashes into Ind. neighborhood

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Two people were killed when a private jet crashed into a residential neighborhood in northern Indiana and damaged three homes, becoming lodged in one of them, authorities said.

The Beechcraft Premier I twin-jet flying out of Tulsa, Okla., hit the homes Sunday afternoon, heavily damaging the last one where the craft’s cracked tail and fuselage could be seen hanging from the side.

Two of four people aboard the plane were killed, Federal Aviation spokesman Roland Herwig said. The other two people aboard were injured, as was one person on the ground, South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said late Sunday.

“I was looking out my picture window,” said Mary Jane Klaybor, who lives across the street from the crash site. “This (plane) was coming straight at my house. I went, ‘Huh?’ and then there was a big crash, and all the insulation went flying.”

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.

Corthier said officials believe everyone connected with the damaged homes had been accounted for and that there were no known missing people. However, crews had not fully searched two of the damaged houses because jet fuel and structural damage had created a “very dangerous” scene, officials said.

The plane was registered to 7700 Enterprises of Montana LLC in Helena, Mont. 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.

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.

An engine company was en route to the airport when its members witnessed the crash, Corthier said.

“Our arrival on the scene was immediate. Our working to get the occupants out started immediately. We were able to get some of the occupants out of the plane right away,” Corthier said.

Part of the neighborhood southwest of the airport was evacuated after the crash, and electricity also was cut off as a precaution.

“I believe they said they’re going to have to tear down a portion of the house to make it stable. That probably won’t happen until (Monday),” Corthier said.

Jet fuel inside another house posed a hazard, he said.

“The leaking has stopped, but there is fuel in the basement. That is one of our major concerns, the fuel,” Corthier said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Todd Fox arrived at the scene late Sunday. He said his agency will not only seek the cause of the crash “but also to identify and remedy any issues that could have prevented this accident.”

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