Jet pilot just off vacation when he crashed

January 8, 2010 4:33:51 AM PST
The pilot of a Learjet cargo plane that crashed into the Des Plaines River had just come off an 11-day Christmas vacation, according to the final entry on his personal Facebook page."Vacation over back to work!" last words posted on Stephen Ellis's Facebook. They were written on Monday morning, about 24 hours before the Learjet 35A he was piloting spiraled out of the air on approach to Chicago Executive Airport in suburban Wheeling.

Ellis, 38, was identified Thursday by Cook County Forest Preserve Police as the pilot of the plane. Investigators made the match using identification cards in his possession and fingerprint records.

He was married and was a 2000 graduate of the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma according to his bio. Ellis, of Pontiac, Michigan outside Detroit, had worked for Royal Air since 2003.

As crews continued to remove pieces of the small jet from the Des Plaines River, they were also able to remove the remains of the co-pilot. He has been identified as Ryan Daenzer, 40, of Osceola County, Michigan. Mr. Daenzer's Facebook page shows he graduated in 1987 from Owosso, Michigan High School. According to authorities, the Royal Air jet the men were flying took off from the Oakland County International Airport and was en route to suburban Chicago to make a cargo pick-up. They were then scheduled to fly to Georgia to deliver the cargo.

The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to determine a cause for the accident.