Plane Crashes Into South Bend, IN, Neighborhood

Two people have died and at least three others were injured today when a small plane crashed into a neighborhood near an airport in South Bend, Ind., according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The pilot of the Hawker Beachcraft Premier 1 twin-jet plane, which had taken off from Tulsa, Okla., radioed the tower to report electrical problems while on approach to South Bend Regional Airport.

The plane crashed into the neighborhood, hitting three houses before finally coming to a stop, lodged in a house.

FAA spokesman Roland Herwig in Oklahoma City said there were four people on the plane, and two of them have died.

South Bend Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Maggie Scroope told The Associated Press that three people injured in the crash were being treated there. She said one was in serious condition and two were in fair condition, but did not know whether they were on the plane or the ground.

The crash shattered the calm of a Sunday afternoon in the quiet residential neighborhood.

"We thought a house was on fire on the next street, cause it was just blowing and it was like ash that was going through the air, little pieces," said Florence Retek, who lives nearby. "It was a loud noise and it sounded like a truck had crashed and then we looked out the front window, door and there was smoke."

The neighborhood was evacuated because of concerns about gas leaking from the plane's fuel tank.

South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said the jet fuel leak made the situation "very dangerous."

"When I walked around the corner after the plane had hit, I could hear the engine still running and smell the jet fuel still pouring out of it, and the engines were still going," another neighbor said.

The Associated Press reported that the plane was registered to 7700 Enterprises of Montana LLC in Helena, Mont., which is owned by Wes Caves and does business as DigiCut Systems in Tulsa, Okla. The company makes window film and paint overlay for automobiles.

(Mike Hartman, South Bend Tribune/AP Photo)