It will be days before two men killed in a plane crash in Butler County are positively identified, officials say.
At 8:55 a.m. Saturday, a two-seat aerobatic biplane struck the side of a home in the 5000 block of Sunrise View Circle in Liberty Twp. before crashing and bursting into flames in the backyards of two homes, said Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer of Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
Dwyer confirmed two men were killed in the crash, but said those identities won’t be officially released until the dental records are confirmed by the Butler County Coroner’s Office.
Officials said the red biplane is based out of the Butler Regional Airport in Hamilton. Dwyer said it’s believed that four people shared ownership of the plane and that two of the owners were in the plane when it crashed.
“Both were experienced pilots,” Dwyer said.
The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the National Transportation Safety Bureau, a federal agency that investigates civil aviation accidents in the U.S., according to the sheriff’s office.
FAA investigators were on scene Saturday afternoon to begin the process of identifying the cause of the crash and any problems with the functionality of the plane or pilot errors, Dwyer said.
The plane was being moved to a secure inside location late Saturday, according to the sheriff’s office.
Witnesses said the plane appeared to be doing stunts in the air before it crashed in the Summerlin subdivision behind Wyandot Elementary School.
“We heard an engine and a plane and looked around and saw a biplane just fall flat straight down and landed at the end of the street,” said Kevin Romer who lives on nearby Brightfield Court. “We ran there, and by the time we got there, it was a raging inferno. We could see there was already somebody in there that didn’t make it.”
The impact of the plane caused “significant damage” to one home that is now inhabitable, as well as melted the siding on a second home, Dwyer said.
A husband, wife and young child inside the home hit by the plane were eating breakfast at the time. The family escaped without injury but the plane struck the left side of the garage, causing a large hole and structural damage to the bricks, Dwyer said.
“If they had been standing by that wall, someone else would have been killed,” Dwyer said. “It hit in a very bad spot.”
Jason Holder, who lives on Brightfield Court, said he was watching TV in an upstairs bedroom when he heard a loud engine rev and then a boom.
“It shook the house a little; I thought it was a hot-rod car,” Holder said, who’s 12-year-old daughter ran into the bedroom to alert him it was a plane crash.
Holder, who said he can still smell the crash, said he called 911 and could only standby by as emergency crews arrived.
“It was just a helpless feeling; it’s awful,” Holder said. “I’ve never witnessed two people burn before my eyes. There are so many kids in this neighborhood; it could have easily killed someone else.”