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Minnesota charter airline exec dies in Will County plane crash

Investigators look over site plane crash Manhattan Illinois Tuesday December 4 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media

Investigators look over the site of a plane crash in Manhattan, Illinois, Tuesday, December 4, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media

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Updated: December 5, 2012 1:00AM



The president of a small Minnesota charter airline was killed Tuesday afternoon when the two-engine plane he was flying crashed into a soybean field in Manhattan Township.

Larry Diffley, 74, of Bemidji, Minn., died in the crash, which occurred shortly before 3 p.m., Will County Coroner Patrick O’Neil said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro confirmed that the pilot was the only person on board.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said the plane was a Hawker Beechcraft BE-58. It was registered to Bemidji Aviation Services in Minnesota, a charter and cargo airline that Diffley co-owned for 36 years before the company became employee-owned in 2006, according to its website. He was the company president.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, the company expressed sympathy for Diffley’s family and said his death was a “profound loss for their family, our company and the Bemidji community.” It said Bemidji Aviation was cooperating with the NTSB in its investigation.

The plane appeared to be traveling south or southeast when it crashed, leaving a path of debris several hundred yards long.

O’Neil said Diffley was patrolling oil pipelines under contract to Enbridge, which is based in Calgary, Alberta and operates pipelines in Canada and the United States.

Details on his itinerary were not known as of Tuesday night.

The residents of the closest house to the field said they did not hear or see the crash.

The FAA planned to send investigators to the crash site Wednesday morning.

Contributing: Cindy Cain



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