CHICAGO (AP) — A small twin-engine cargo plane crashed into a home on Chicago’s southwest side Tuesday, killing the pilot but sparing a couple who were asleep just inches away.
The Aero Commander 500-B slammed nose-down into the front of the home around 2:40 a.m., punching through the ground floor into the basement and leaving about a third of the aircraft, including the tail, sticking straight out of the red-brick home.
“The wreckage was about 8 inches away from them,” Assistant Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Michael Fox said of the home’s two residents. “It’s very lucky. They were in a bedroom next to the living room and the living room is gone.”
Both told first responders they were fine and refused any medical attention.
After stabilizing the house, crews recovered the body from the wreckage. No one else was on board. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office did not immediately release the pilot’s name.
The pilot reported engine trouble shortly after taking off from Midway International Airport and asked to return to the airport. But the plane crashed about a quarter mile short of the runway, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
Fire crews found aviation fuel leaking from the wreck but there was no fire or explosion, and the airframe was mostly intact, investigators said.
“So we’re confident we’re not dealing with any type of in-flight breakup or some scenario like that,” said National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tim Sorensen.
The NTSB expects to have a preliminary accident report within a week, followed by a final report in about a year.
The airport is closely bounded by densely populated neighborhoods. Those living near the crash site said the impact shook houses.
Luz Cazares, 62, who lives next door, ran to check on the neighbors she’s known for more than 20 years, fearing that the couple in their 80s did not survive.
“When I saw the plane in the wall I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, something happened to them,'” she said.
She called out for them, jumped a fence and found them just inside the backdoor. The woman was asking, “What happened? What happened?” Cazares said.
She helped her to safety, while a police officer aided the woman’s husband.
“(I was) so happy, so happy,” Cazares said.
The pilot had been intending to fly to Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, Ohio.
The aircraft was built in 1964 and owned by Central Airlines Inc. of Fairway, Kansas, according to an FAA aircraft registry. Central said it was cooperating with investigators but still gathering information and did not know if the plane was carrying cargo.
Investigators also did not yet know if any cargo was on board, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said.