SOUTH BEND — The fuselage of a private jet that plowed into three houses, killing two people and injuring three others, was removed from a northern Indiana home Tuesday, March 19, by a crane that lifted it out, placed it on a truck and hauled it to a hangar where investigators trying to identify a cause will sift through its battered remains.
Meanwhile, barricades were removed from the South Bend neighborhood and all residents who were evacuated following Sunday’s crash, except for those living in the three homes that were struck, were allowed to return home Tuesday.
“It sure does feel good to be home,” said Stan Klaybor, who lives across the street from the homes that were struck.
Frank Sojka said he’d never really worried about living so close to the South Bend Regional Airport until the jet sheared the roof off the house where he’s lived for 55 of his 84 years.
“I never worried about it, but I thought about it,” he said with a chuckle. “Now I’m worried about it.”
Sojka said he was in the front bedroom Sunday when he heard a loud, dull sound and went to his living room.
“I could see the sky through the ceiling and all kinds of debris in the far end of the living room,” he said.
The private jet originating from Tulsa, Okla., crashed into three homes Sunday, killing former Oklahoma University quarterback Steve Davis who led Oklahoma to back-to-back national championships in the 1970s, and his friend, Wes Caves, a Tulsa businessman. Davis, 60, and Caves, 58, were the jet’s flight crew. Funeral services for both are still pending in Tulsa.
The crash occurred after two aborted attempted landings at South Bend Regional Airport. It wasn’t immediately clear who was at the controls when it crashed.
Two passengers and a woman residing in one of the damaged homes remained hospitalized Tuesday.
Nearly 8,000 small private planes take off and land at the northern Indiana airport each year, said Michael Guljas, the airport’s director of administration and finance. But in his 30 years working at the airport, he has never seen anything like Sunday’s crash.
“During my time here we’ve never had a plane go into a neighborhood,” he said.
The most similar incident to occur near the airport was in 2004, when two pilots safely landed a disabled single-engine aircraft on a heavily traveled state highway.
National Transportation Safety Board statistics show nearly 200 planes crashed into residential areas during a five-year period beginning in 2003. But since 2008, the agency has not distinguished between crashes involving homes and those involving other buildings.
Some crashes into homes have proven deadly. A regional airliner crash into a home near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009 killed 50 people. In January, three people were killed when their plane crashed into a Palm Coast in Florida while trying for an emergency landing at a nearby airport. No one on the ground was seriously injured.
Associated Press writer Charles Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.