South Bend police and fire officials examine a home where a a plane crash occurred near the South Bend Regional Airport Sunday, March 17, 2013 in South Bend, Ind. The private jet apparently experiencing mechanical trouble crashed in the northern Indiana neighborhood, resulting in injuries and striking three homes, authorities and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A private jet apparently experiencing mechanical trouble crashed Sunday in a northern Indiana neighborhood, leaving multiple people dead after it hit three homes, becoming lodged in one of them, authorities and witnesses said.
The Beechcraft Premier I twin-jet had left Tulsa, Okla.'s Riverside Airport and crashed near South Bend Regional Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig in Oklahoma City said.
"Fatalities have been confirmed at the scene," said Deputy St. Joseph County Coroner Michael O'Connell. He would not say how many people are dead.
The plane is registered to 7700 Enterprises of Montana LLC in Helena, Mont. The company is owned by Wes Caves and does business as DigiCut Systems in Tulsa, Okla. It makes window film and paint overlay for automobiles. Herwig said he did not know how many people were aboard the jet.
A woman identifying herself as Caves' wife answered the phone at their home Sunday and said, "I think he's dead," before hanging up.
In South Bend, Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said some people who were injured had been taken to the hospital, but he did not know how many or what their medical conditions were.
The presence of jet fuel from the aircraft made the situation "very dangerous," Corthier said. The plane was lodged inside a house.
"It's still a rescue operation," Corthier said about three hours after the crash. Referring to one of the damaged houses, he said, "Because of the collapse in the house it's a very dangerous situation. We have to shore up the house before we can enter the house. "
Part of the neighborhood southwest of the airport was evacuated. Buses were transporting up to 200 people to a nearby shelter, Red Cross volunteer Jackie Lincoln said.
Mike Daigle, executive director of the St. Joseph County Airport Authority, said the jet attempted a landing, went back up and maneuvered south to try another landing, but eight minutes later the airport learned the plane was no longer airborne.
"There was an indication of a mechanical problem," Herwig said.
Stan Klaybor, who lives across the street from the crash scene, said the jet clipped the top of one house, heavily damaged a second, and finally came to rest against a third. Neighbors did not know if a woman living in the most heavily damaged house was home at the time, and a young boy in the third house did not appear to be seriously injured, Klaybor said.
"Her little boy was in the kitchen and he got nicked here," Klaybor said, pointing to his forehead.
His wife, Mary Jane, regularly watches planes approach the airport.
"I was looking out my picture window. The plane's coming, and I go, 'Wait a minute,' and then, boom," she said.
"This one was coming straight at my house. I went, 'Huh?' and then there was a big crash, and all the insulation went flying," she said.
Associated Press writer Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.