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Woman, man die after plane crash in Bolingbrook

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Updated: October 28, 2013 7:17AM

Two people died after a small plane crashed in a bank parking lot near Bolingbrook’s Clow International Airport on Wednesday, authorities said.

A woman died at the scene Wednesday, and a man died early Thursday, authorities said.

They were aboard the plane, which was heading for the airport when it went down near a Chase bank branch at Lily Cache and Weber roads about 5:15 p.m.

“I was taking money out of one of the ATMs” at the bank, 262 S. Weber Road, said Tom McKernan of Bolingbrook. “I heard this horrible explosion. I thought it was a rocket. . . . I was in shock.”

The man burned in the crash was taken to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital and transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, authorities said. He died early Thursday.

Bolingbrook Police Lt. Mike Rompa said the plane erupted into a fireball after it clipped several trees, struck a light pole and hit three cars in the parking lot, which is about half a mile from the airport. He said the plane was attempting to land at the airport. The airplane was coming from an airport in Georgetown, Ky., according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

“It appears they had trouble, tried to lift again and banked into the parking lot,” Bolingbrook Police Chief Kevin McCarthy said.

It wasn’t clear who was the pilot and who was the passenger, Rompa said.

The woman was trapped in the wreckage and was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:45 p.m., Rompa said. The victims had not been identified as of Thursday morning.

Mike Grohar, who works at a nearby Andy’s Frozen Custard, was among the first to arrive at the scene. He said the man who got out of the plane was on fire, and another man took off his jacket to douse the flames.

“The man had fallen and kept asking us to get his wife out of the plane,” Grohar said. “We were only 20 feet from the plane, and we wanted to get him away.”

Juan Moreno, who works at a nearby Chipotle, said he heard the commotion and left the restaurant to help. He said two men in the restaurant also ran out to help. Moreno said he asked one of his customers what happened, and the man replied: “‘I just saw this guy on fire and I went out to help. I just pulled off my jacket to put out the flames.”

Moreno said he saw what probably was part of a wing in the wreckage. But he said it was hard to tell that the metal parts in the parking lot were from an airplane.

What appeared to be a propeller was lying in the parking lot. A heap of mangled metal was lying near the cars, which had caught fire. What appeared to be white sheets of metal were curled into a pile near the bank building.

The bank building did not appear to be damaged. The three cars that caught fire looked charred inside and out. Police had cordoned off the area, keeping media and onlookers away.

Ray Castellano, of Bolingbrook, said police were keeping traffic away when the fire was still burning, and his wife drove up to the bank not knowing what had happened. His wife thought the bank was on fire.

Castellano was among a group of Bolingbrook residents at the scene who remembered an emergency landing on Weber Road nearby in September 2008. That time, Castellano said, “Everyone was OK.”

This time, authorities considered it fortunate that no one on the ground was hurt. The plane crashed in a retail area about 20 yards from Weber Road, a heavily traveled road.

“At the time of day, during rush hour, we’re fortunate there weren’t a large amount of casualties,” Rompa said.

Police secured the scene for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the crash.

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