AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- Authorities confirmed Wednesday that nine people were killed when a small business jet crashed into an apartment building, and seven of them were employees or executives in a Florida real-estate company.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Haymaker said two pilots and seven passengers were killed aboard the 10-seat Hawker H25 when it clipped utility wires and crashed into a four-unit apartment building Tuesday afternoon in Akron, sparking a fire that destroyed the building. Nobody was home at any of the apartments, and there were no other injuries.
Pebb Enterprises, based in Boca Raton, said on its website that two executives and five employees died Tuesday afternoon when the plane crashed and burst into flames.
"Our hearts are broken this morning with the news of the tragic accident that took the lives of two principals and five employees of Pebb Enterprises," the website said. "We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished."
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the jet to strike the Akron building with a huge bang, shaking furniture in homes several blocks away and leaving behind fiery debris.
The Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and other state and local officials planned to hold a news conference around noon at the crash site.
Family members say they were told by Ohio State Police that executive Diane Smoot was among those who perished in the crash. The 50-year-old Smoot was with a group of executives from Pebb Enterprises, a company that scouts locations for shopping malls, her sister told Cleveland.com.
The Summit County coroner on Wednesday sought the expertise of a forensics team from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, to help local officials at the site of the crash. The team specializes in crime scene and airplane crash recoveries of human remains.
The jet took off from Dayton and planned to land at Akron Fulton International Airport, about 2 miles from where it crashed. Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Haymaker said it clipped utility wires on the way down and crashed into the building, which was destroyed by a subsequent fire. The plane then hit an embankment beyond the building, causing a nearby house to also burn.
The plane burst into flames and disintegrated after impact.
There were no reports of any injuries on the ground, Haymaker said.
Witnesses said they heard explosions when the plane hit.
Carrie Willis lives several blocks away.
"I heard a big bang, and my couch shook twice," Willis said.
Another witness, Roberta Porter, lives about a block away from the Akron crash site. She was driving home when she saw the plane crash into the building and burst into flames.
"This plane just dropped out of the sky, veered and crashed into the apartment building," Porter said.
She said it's scary to think that if she had been driving faster the plane might have clipped her car.