SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A private jet apparently experiencing mechanical trouble crashed Sunday in a northern Indiana neighborhood, striking three homes, authorities and witnesses said. The Federal Aviation Administration says two of four people aboard have died.
The Beechcraft Premier I twin-jet had left Tulsa, Okla.’s Riverside Airport and crashed near South Bend Regional Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig in Oklahoma City said.
“There was an indication of a mechanical problem,” Herwig said.
Authorities did not immediately confirm if anyone on the ground had died. They said there were some injuries, but it wasn’t clear exactly how many people were hurt.
The plane is registered to 7700 Enterprises of Montana LLC in Helena, Mont. The company does business as DigiCut Systems in Tulsa and makes window film and paint overlay for automobiles.
The company is owned by Wes Caves. 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 that “some of the victims have been taken to the hospital,” but he did not know how many or what their medical conditions were.
The presence of jet fuel from the aircraft made the situation “very dangerous,” Corthier said.
“It’s still a rescue operation,” Corthier said about three hours after the crash. Referring to one of the damaged houses, he said, “Because of the collapse in the house, it’s a very dangerous situation. We have to shore up the house before we can enter the house. “
Part of the neighborhood southwest of the airport was evacuated because of concerns about jet fuel. Buses were transporting up to 200 people to a nearby shelter, Red Cross volunteer Jackie Lincoln said.
Mike Daigle, executive director of the St. Joseph County Airport Authority, said the jet attempted a landing, went back up and maneuvered south to try another landing, but eight minutes later the airport learned the plane was no longer airborne.
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 did not know if a woman living in the most heavily damaged house was home at the time, and 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.