Plane removed from Naperville gym

October 7, 2010 7:42:34 AM PDT
Crews worked to pull the wreckage from a building early Thursday after a Naperville couple crashed their small plane into a fitness center.

The plane took off from a runway at Aero Estates around noon Wednesday, but the plane could not get enough altitude. About a half mile from the end of the runway, it crashed into the gym.

"We were watching the plane, and it disappeared right into the building," said witness Janet Stack.

The plane had remained wedged into the building for more than 12 hours. Crews brought in a crane to lift the aircraft out and loaded it onto a trailer. Now, investigators can take a closer look to find out exactly what happened and why.

"I was in Costco, and I looked up and saw the plane coming down. Then the gas station attendant said it hit the side of the building," said witness Michael Kolodziej.

The plane struck the top floor of the Xsport Fitness center in Naperville. The single-engine Piper Lance crashed into an empty basketball court and came to rest on the decorative facade.

"I was on the second floor lifting weights, and I heard a big thump. And a moment later you hear someone yelling, 'Get out, get out, get out!'" said witness John Gosciniak.

About 280 people were inside the building when the plane crashed; all were evacuated without injury.

"As I'm looking, I'm thinking, 'Geez, it can barely make it over that building.' And all of a sudden, we heard a crash, and then there was another sound," said Jerry Stack, witness.

Lloyd McKee, 66, and his wife, Maureen, survived. They suffered non-life threatening injuries.

"He is an instrument-rated pilot, and I know he has been flying in and out of this airport for a long time," said Mark Banovetz, board president, Naper Aero Club.

The couple had just taken off from the nearby Aero Estates where many homes have attached hangars and exclusive access to the two on-site runways.

"I'm optimistic that they are going to recover. I don't foresee anything being life threatening at this point," said Dr. Tom Scaletta, emergency room director, Edward Hospital.

"It is a high-performance plane, so he has to have experience to fly it. That indicates to me that it wouldn't necessarily be pilot error as opposed to something that was malfunctioning," said Darryl Betler, Aero Estates board member.

The couple had lived at Aero Estates at least 12 years. Lloyd McKee, a retired executive at Lucent, was at one time the area's board president.

The McKees suffered cuts and fractures and were still undergoing a battery of different tests in the hospital Thursday.


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