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Wheaton College student among 4 killed in Crystal Lake plane crash

Ramie Harris

Ramie Harris

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Updated: December 28, 2011 10:08AM

Central Indiana businessman Ray Harris was flying his daughter, Ramie, back to Wheaton College Saturday after the long holiday weekend when their single engine plane crashed near Crystal Lake, authorities and a longtime family friend said.

Harris and his daughter Ramie — along with another daughter, Shey, and one of the girls’ boyfriends — were all killed in the crash, said Aaron Vermilion, a longtime family friend and neighbor. He said the news was devastating to their tight-knit hometown, Marion, which is about 80 miles northeast of Indianapolis,

“It really is a tragic loss for this community,” Vermilion said.

Authorities Saturday still couldn’t say what caused the 10:30 a.m. crash.

At the crash site in the northwest suburbs Saturday afternoon, all that was visibly in tact was a fiery red parachute, which authorities said was deployed by the pilot as the plane was going down. Crash debris was spread over 100 yards across a soybean field near a small farmhouse and church at U.S. Route 14 and North Ridgefield Road.

Authorities did not identify those killed, other than to say there were two men and two women. Vermilion, who visited with surviving family members Saturday, confirmed the identities and said the daughters were in their early 20s and said Harris was in his late 40s.

Two of the four aboard the plane were strapped in when authorities found them after the crash; the others were found among the debris, McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said.

Timothy Sorensen, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said officials were attempting to determine if the pilot had any contact with air traffic controllers in Chicago.

“As far as if the aircraft was in trouble, I have no indication at this point that it was. Obviously something did go terribly wrong. What exactly that is, I don’t know,” Sorensen said.

Sheriff’s police described the plane as a four-seat, single-engine Cirrus SR20 manufactured in 2000.

Sorensen said it hadn’t been determined whether the plane had a black box but similar models often do carry the devices.

Vermilion said Ray Harris, who owns a Chrysler dealership, his daughters, a teenage son and his wife were always together. His daughters were still very active in the community even after leaving for college.

“They were just truly a great family and that’s why it’s so sad. They were always together and they just did a lot for Marion,” said Vermilion.

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