Skydiving Plane Crashes, 12 Dead
HINCKLEY, Ill. (AP) _ A skydiving plane crashed and burned in a farm field Monday just minutes after takeoff, killing all 12 people on board, authorities said.
The twin-engine Beechcraft B-18 went down shortly before 1 p.m. about one mile north of town, said the De Kalb County Sheriff’s Department.
Rescue workers found the burned bodies of 12 men, Sheriff Roger A. Scott said. There were parachutes on board, but there was no evidence any of the victims had attempted to leave the plane, he said.
The plane was being used by the Hinckley Parachute Center, which has operated for 22 years and conducts jumps six days a week, said Dave Torres, a friend of owner Jim Baron, who was out of state and not immediately available for comment.
″This is terrible. This is devastating,″ said Torres, a police officer who has parachuted for 17 years.
Torres said the victims included three first-time jumpers, one on his third jump and several instructors and photographers.
″The only thing I wish people would think of is not these crazy people jumping out of airplanes. ... We know that this entails a risk and we chose to do it,″ he said.
On the scene, the tail of the wrecked plane was visible above waist-high soybeans in the field. Dozens of emergency vehicles were in the field and rescue workers fanned out on foot to search for victims before Scott declared that all aboard had died.
Mort Edelstein, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the plane belonged to EXA Inc. in nearby St. Charles and crashed shortly after takeoff from the Hinckley airfield, 50 miles west of Chicago.
Some witnesses reported hearing two explosions, Edelstein said.
Witness Stephen Lee said he saw the plane flying less than 40 feet from the ground and rocking from side to side.
″It was sort of floating down, left to right, left to right. It looked like it would land,″ he said.
″When it hit the ground, the plane flipped over and burst into flames,″ Lee said. ″It was immediately engulfed in flames from front to back.″
A man who answered the telephone at Hinckley Parachute Center refused to answer questions and hung up.
Jim Burnett, who owns the farm field, said the plane crashed about 200 yards from his house. He said he saw smoke and ran to the plane with his two daughters about four minutes after the crash but they couldn’t get close enough to attempt a rescue.
″It was too hot,″ Burnett said. ″It was already too much in flames.″