4 Die in Florida Aircraft Collision
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) _ A Lear jet and a small stunt plane collided and crashed into a golf course community, killing the three people aboard the jet and the pilot of the second craft.
No one on the ground was injured when the planes crashed in one heap and burned inside the gated Boca Grove Plantation community and on the adjoining golf course, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department.
The cockpit and an engine from the Lear jet landed within feet of a three-story condominium and the building was damaged by the ensuing fire. Residents, mostly elderly, were evacuated.
Smaller debris landed on roofs and in yards in an area authorities said spanned about one mile.
The Lear jet had just taken off from Boca Raton Airport when it apparently hit the second aircraft, an Extra 300 one-seater coming from Willis Flight Port in Boynton Beach, about 10 miles north.
The pilot of the stunt plane, a member of the U.S. Aerobatics team, apparently tried to jump from his aircraft after the collision, and his body was found wrapped in a parachute, Miller said. It is not clear whether his parachute had deployed. Pilots flying stunt planes are required to wear parachutes, Miller said.
The larger plane ``looked like it split in half, the front half of the plane buckling underneath it and the thing basically dropped out of the sky like a rock,″ said Dean Kallan, who works in an office complex across the street.
Jack Shoenfelt, the Boca Grove Golf Course’s pro, said there were about 30 players on the course when a large section of the plane crashed near the 17th tee.
Golfer and subdivision resident Edward Brill said a man and woman were about to tee off when the planes fell.
``They said they didn’t know which way to run,″ Brill said. ``It’s unbelievable no one on the ground got hurt.″
The Lear 55, a twin-engine jet that can carry up to 13 people, is owned by Universal Jet Aviation Inc., a Boca Raton company, federal records show.
The jet carried three Universal Jet employees _ pilot Richard Smith, co-pilot Kevin Reyer and passenger William Bradley Moncrief. It was headed to Fort Pierce, about 80 miles to the north, to be painted, Miller said.
The Extra 300 pilot was identified by friends and neighbors as John Lillberg, a member of the U.S. Aerobatics team since 1991 and a retired Pratt & Whitney engineer who had been flying since about 30 years.
``He performed for and held competitions here,″ said neighbor and fellow pilot John Lobb. ``He was responsible. It’s really a shock to us.″