Ohio Plane Crash Kills Three Passengers
Apr. 09, 2003
SWANTON, Ohio (AP) _ A small charter airline company with only about 50 employees has lost two of its twin-engine jets in separate crashes on the same day, with one crashing in flames in an Ohio park and the other ditching in the Mississippi River at St. Louis.
The crash in Ohio killed all three people on board, while both crew members were rescued from the plane that went into the Mississippi. Both planes were twin-engine Falcon 20 turbojets operated by Grand Aire Inc.
A flag outside the company's offices at Toledo Express Airport flew at half-staff Wednesday. An employee said no one from the company was available to comment.
The causes of Tuesday's crashes had not yet been determined. Police and the FBI in St. Louis said they were taking precautions but had no reason to believe the crash there was a result of terrorism.
``Because the country is on an orange alert and because Mississippi River bridges have been listed as possible terrorism targets, we are handling this matter with extreme caution,'' Mayor Francis Slay said.
Officials have said in the past that Mississippi River bridges and the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, near the crash site, were potential terrorism targets.
One of the Grand Aire planes crashed in flames in a remote area of a nature preserve about 2 p.m. Tuesday as it approached the Toledo airport. The plane was on its way from Traverse City, Mich., Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said.
Deputies and park rangers found the wreckage by following a horse trail toward smoke in the 3,500-acre Oak Openings Preserve MetroPark, a mile southwest of the airport.
``It was really difficult to reach it and even find it,'' said Mike George, fire chief for the Ohio National Guard unit based at the airport in Swanton, 17 miles west of Toledo.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board began work at the crash site just after daybreak Wednesday.
The victims were Grand Aire employees Dave Davenport, 40, of Elmore, Ohio; Will Forshay, 37, of Maumee, Ohio; and Wallis Bouldin, 34, of Louisville, Ky., the State Highway Patrol said. It was not yet clear which was the pilot.
All three were experienced fliers, said Tahir Cheema, Grand Aire's owner and president. He would not comment further Tuesday.
About five hours later, a second Grand Aire Falcon 20 crashed into the Mississippi River just north of downtown St. Louis.
The plane, Grand Aire flight 179, was en route to St. Louis' Lambert Airport from Del Rio, Texas, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted an FAA source as saying that while the plane was circling for a second attempt at landing at Lambert, the crew radioed that the Falcon 20 turbo jet was critically low on fuel.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigator, said Sharon Stewart, a worker in the NTSB's Chicago office. She could not provide any additional information about the crash or the investigation.
The pilot and co-pilot were pulled from the water and taken to a hospital, police and fire officials said.
When rescuers arrived, one crew member was in the water and the other was holding onto the plane, St. Louis Fire Department spokesman Steve Reynolds said.
``They were both conscious and talking,'' Reynolds said.
The men were identified as Saleem Iqbal, 34, and Mohammed Saleh, 44. Authorities said one was hospitalized in critical condition and the other was in serious condition.
On July 18, another Grand Aire plane crashed while attempting to land in dense fog at Columbus, Ind. The pilot was killed.
The company, which offers passenger and freight charter services as well as trucking, moved to the Toledo airport from Monroe, Mich., in 1999.
On the Net:
Grand Aire: http://www.grandaire.com/