Air controller tells pilot 'Straighten up!' before Houston crash

HOUSTON -- Three siblings were killed this afternoon in a small plane crash near Hobby Airport.

A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman says the plane crashed at 1:12pm into a vehicle parked outside an Ace Hardware store in the 6800 block of Telephone. No one was inside the parked car, but all three people -- two brothers and a sister -- aboard the plane died immediately.

The spokesman said the Cirrus SR-20 plane, a fixed wing single-engine aircraft, was en route to Hobby Airport. The pilot was trying to land in Runway 3 but the plane was too high, so the air traffic controller told them to go around the towers and try again. A second attempt was made but yielded the same results. The spokesman said the plane nose-dived into the ground during the third try.

Audio released by air traffic control revealed the final moments before the crash: "Ma'am, ma'am, straighten up! Straighten up!"

Narissa Artani was watching from below.

"I saw the plane. It was going everywhere, all over the place," Artani said.

In the seconds before the plane crashed, eyewitnesses say they heard something that could prove critically important to investigators.

"You ever listen to those guys playing with toy airplanes? How the spit and sputter. That's what he sound like," said eyewitness Don Howard.
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HFD says the plane crashed just before 1:15pm into a vehicle parked outside an Ace Hardware store in southeast Houston.

That sound was corroborated by others nearby.

As the plane crashed outside the Gateway Ace Hardware, Ann Maryland was at work inside.

"It was like a transformer had blew, it was real, real loud and it shook the building," she said.

Maryland wasn't sure what happened or what she should do. For a second, says she froze.

"I just ducked, like it was inside the building itself. It's nothing I could do except stand there in shock," said Maryland.

A family friend tells abc13 the siblings are from a well-known family in the Moore, Oklahoma area. Eyewitness News is not yet reporting their names because family members are still being notified.

The family friend says the victims were in Houston to visit their father, a patient at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The sister, according to the family friend, was piloting the plane. She managed to miss a propane tank just feet away from the crash site. Witness Yudel Guajardo thinks that was done on purpose.

"Intentionally avoid a big tragedy," he said. "Chose to crash into the car than the propane tank or the building itself."

HFD spokesman Ruy Lozano says there was no HazMat spill or fire as a result of the crash.

The NTSB plans to return to the crash site Friday to clean up. The aircraft manufacturer and engine manufacturer will be helping the agency investigate the crash.

The city of Houston issued an alert asking drivers to avoid the following perimeter:

  • Bellfort to the North

  • Broadway to the East

  • Airport Blvd to the South

  • Mykawa to the West

The crash investigation is not hindering air traffic at Hobby Airport.

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