CHICAGO — The small cargo plane that crashed into a home near Midway Airport early Tuesday missed the couple who lived in the house by a mere 8 inches, authorities said.
"They were very lucky," said Tim Sorensen, air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Chicago Fire Chief Michael Fox said the plane landed in the living room of the home. The weight of the wreckage caused the living room to collapse into the basement.
"There were two people in the house, and we managed to rescue both of those people. Unfortunately, the pilot did die in this crash," Fox said. "They were in a bedroom next to the living room, and most of the plane is in the living room. They're just very lucky where they were at. They were unhurt; there was nothing wrong with them at all."
Fuel was leaking into the home, and the state of the home hampered the efforts to remove the pilot's body from the wreckage, Fox said.
According to Elizabeth Isham Cory of the Federal Aviation Administration, the small plane had departed from Midway and was heading toward Ohio State University Airport when it crashed into the home in the 6500 block of South Knox Avenue at 2:42 a.m.
The plane originally was headed for Chicago Executive Airport in north suburban Waukegan before the pilot altered its flight plan to head for the Ohio airport, Cory said.
A few minutes after takeoff, the pilot reported engine problems with the Aero Commander 500 plane and tried to return to Midway but crashed about a quarter-mile from the airport, Cory said.
John Richerme said he woke up just before 3 a.m. to a panicked wife and a sight he'd never seen, even though he's lived near an airport for more than 20 years.
Richerme's wife said "it sounded like a loud thump," but when he looked outside he could clearly see a plane protruding from his neighbor's house.
"They fly over all the time. It's just weird," Richerme said. "Police and Fire Department were around in about 5 minutes."
Leroy and Lynn Saduakas were watching TV when they heard what sounded like a toy airplane flying above their home before a small "poof."
"I heard the plane then all you heard was pop like the engine went out quick. [It] didn't sound good," said Lynn, who checked her back porch and saw nothing before heading to bed. "I didn't think nothin' of it."
The retired couple, who have lived on the block for 25 years, said planes fly over head about every five minutes, constantly having them on the lookout for falling plane parts.
Sorensen said the crash investigation is just beginning, and the home and plane wreckage would have to be stabilized before investigators could examine the scene.
"Due to the state of the scene right now there is not a lot I can do to examine the aircraft," Sorensen said.
Preliminary reports will be released later this week, but a full report will not be available for six months to a year, Sorensen said.
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