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Jet crashes into 3 houses near South Bend airport; 2 aboard killed

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Updated: March 18, 2013 9:34AM



A private jet that apparently had mechanical trouble crashed into three houses Sunday afternoon near the South Bend airport, killing two people aboard the plane, authorities said.

Two other people aboard the plane and one on the ground were injured, South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said late Sunday. Corthier said officials think everyone connected with the damaged homes had been accounted for and there no one was missing.

The jet, which had flown from Riverside Airport in Tulsa, Okla., crashed late Sunday afternoon near South Bend Regional Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said in Oklahoma City.

Three people injured in the crash were being treated at South Bend Memorial Hospital, spokeswoman Maggie Scroope said. One was in serious condition and two were in fair condition.

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,. 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.

Although authorities think everyone was accounted for, Corthier said firefighters still wanted to search a heavily damaged home.

“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, he said.

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

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

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.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator arrived on the scene Sunday night.

Part of the neighborhood southwest of the airport was evacuated after the crash, and Corthier said it was possible some residents would return to their homes Sunday night.

Electricity was cut off to part of the neighborhood.

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. Neighbors didn’t know whether a woman who lived in the most heavily damaged house was home at the time. A young boy in the third house did not appear to be seriously injured, Klaybor said.

“Her little boy was in the kitchen, and he got nicked here,” Klaybor said, pointing to his forehead.

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.



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