A small jet which crashed in a farm field outside Centerville, Ill., early Wednesday morning began its journey from Farmington.
Passengers and a passerby pulled the pilot, Shane Storz, from the downed craft moments before an explosion destroyed it.
Storz was hospitalized in St. Louis with facial lacerations, said Master Sgt. Steve Johnson of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
The private Lear Storz was flying was registered to Multi-Arrow, which is owned and operated by Ivan Storz, 40 of Herculaneum. The firm operates a hangar operation from the Farmington Regional Airport, with main offices located near Arnold.
The craft was reportedly on its way to pick up two passengers in the St. Louis area, Eric Holland and Gerald Schneller, and reportedly hit a flock of birds, causing engine damage.
The jet had taken off from the airport moments earlier when the incident occurred, forcing the plane to land in the field. Everyone was able to escape after impact.
Aerial views of the scene and witnesses’ reports show the jet narrowly missed a farm house before hitting the ground. Walden later said he and Storz tried to maintain control of the plane until they could get past the heavily populated area. The craft apparently skidded several hundred yards before coming to rest in the freshly worked field.
The sheriff’s report listed the co-pilot as Michael Walden, 34, of Crystal City, Mo. The passengers were Eric Holland, 37, of Webster Groves, Mo., and Gerald Schneller of St. Louis. Officials did not know Schneller’s age.
Larry McCormick, owner of MAC-Air, operates the Farmington Regional Airport. As of Wednesday afternoon he said he had not spoken with Ivan Storz, who was reportedly by his son’s side at the St. Louis hospital. The younger Storz was air-lifted from the crash scene by an Arch medical helicopter to St. Louis University Hospital.
McCormick said Shane Storz and Walden had left prior to the start of business at the airport Wednesday, and was not required to file a flight plan at that time.
The plane, which had flown from Farmington to St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, was headed to North Platte, Neb., according to Federal Aviation Administration officials.