Still no cause in plane crash that killed 2

January 25, 2010 4:30:36 AM PST
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration returned Sunday to the scene of a plane crash in Sugar Grove. Sugar Grove's fire chief spoke Sunday about the deadly crash that happened in his own neighborhood over the weekend.

The two people onboard the plane that crashed Saturday night were killed, but amazingly, no one on the ground was hurt.

Investigators were on the scene Sunday combing through debris scattered in a wide area.

"Part of the debris had gone into the garage itself and started a car on fire in the garage," Sugar Grove Fire Dept. Chief Marty Kunkel said.

The twin-engine Piper Aerostar had just taken off from the Aurora airport when it crashed near a home a few miles away in unincorporated Sugar Grove.

Although the garage was the only part of the house that sustained damage, the family living in the house has been evacuated temporarily while authorities continue their investigation. NTSB and Sugar Grove Fire Dept. officials spent the entire day Sunday trying to determine the cause of the crash.

"When I heard the explosion and the extent and severity it was, I thought it was in my front yard. I thought my house was impacted," Kunkel said.

As it turns out, the crash had happened two doors down from Kunkel's home.

Upon realizing that a small plane had just crashed into his subdivision Saturday, and that, from the looks of it, there was no possibility of survivors inside the plane, Kunkel went to work immediately and evacuated four members of a family living inside the impacted home.

"A Sugar Grove police officer was here who is also a fireman in another community. He took control of that and got them out," said Kunkel. "My neighbor asked what he could do. I told him, 'Take them and put them in your vehicle and get them safe and secure.'"

It appears the plane crashed into the north side of the home's garage. It broke into lots of small pieces. Investigators say the large debris field is most likely the result of a high-speed impact.

But what caused the crash was still a mystery Sunday.

At about 1,700 feet, they were cleared to contact departure control, and departure tried contacting them, and there was no response," said the NTSB's Pam Sullivan. "It was foggy last night with some low cloud conditions, but he was an instrument-rated pilot, and the aircraft was certified to fly in instrument conditions."

On board the aircraft were two Florida men: the pilot, Gary Bradford, 37, and his passenger, 32-year-old Drago Strahija.

Both men are said to have been employees of the company that held the registration for the aircraft. It is not clear what the purpose of the trip was.

The NTSB says it is in the beginning stages of its investigation, and it could be several months before the cause of the crash is determined.