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Business Jet Crashes in Rural Ill.

November 13, 2003

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ A twin-engine business jet crashed shortly after takeoff and burst into flames Wednesday morning but all four people on board survived, officials said.

A co-pilot later told officials the plane hit a flock of birds before losing power.

The Lear aircraft took off from St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia for a flight to North Platte, Neb., but went down about four miles southeast of the airport, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

Two crew members and two passengers were on board, he said.

Television aerial footage showed the plane skidded about the length of a football field and stopped in a field.

Pilot Ivan Storz, 40, of Herculaneum, Mo., was hospitalized in St. Louis with facial lacerations, said Master Sgt. Steve Johnson of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.

A sheriff’s report listed the co-pilot as Michael Walden, 34, of Crystal City, Mo. The passengers were Eric Holland, 37, of Webster Grove, Mo., and Gerald Schneller of St. Louis. Officials did not know Schneller’s age.

Walden told officials that the plane hit birds and lost power in its right engine, according to the sheriff’s report. Holland and Schneller reported hearing a noise from the right wing before the plane went down.

Storz was flown to a hospital for treatment of cuts, Johnson said. The hospital reported treating one crash victim in fair condition.

The others were transported to hospitals for observation.

The Lear 24 jet is owned by Multi-Aero Inc., a charter company based in Festus, Mo., near St. Louis, Molinaro said. A company employee said she could not immediately confirm that.

``It’s a multiengine, small, fast jet,″ Molinaro said. ``It’s wonderful to hear they walked away.″

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