Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Illinois attorney aboard plane that crashed into Florida supermarket

An Aurora attorney was aboard a single-engine plane that sputtered out of control and crashed into a supermarket north of Orlando, Fla., exploding into a fireball that injured five people, authorities said today.

Kim Presbrey, 60, suffered third-degree burns and was in the intensive care unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center, according to a family spokesman Bill Weir. The amateur-built plane was registered to Presbrey.

Weir, a lawyer who works at Presbrey's law firm in Aurora, said Presbrey's wife, son and brother were at the hospital with him. "We are shocked," Weir said Tuesday afternoon. "But we get more optimistic as each hour goes by. The next 24 hours are going to be critical."

The second person on the plane, identified by DeLand police as Thomas Rhoades, also suffered severe burns, according to National Traffic Safety Board investigator Luke Schiada. That person is also believed to be from Illinois. It has not been determined who was the pilot, Schiada said.

The four-passenger Seawind 3000 plunged through the roof of the Publix supermarket in DeLand Monday evening and landed between two aisles in the middle of the store, officials said.

The plane erupted into flames and was almost completely destroyed, investigators said. Video from a sheriff's helicopter shows smoke pouring from the roof of the store. Three customers were hurt.

That no one was killed is "nothing less than a miracle," said DeLand police Lt. Jack Waples.

"This is a busy store," said Waples. "Very busy."

One of the injured customers, Lisa Cordova, told the Orlando Sentinel it was "like something had exploded in the store. The roof just started shaking. All the lights went out. Everybody was just screaming."

Emergency dispatch tapes captured the panic as customers fled the store, located on the north side of DeLand. "Publix is on fire!" a woman from inside the supermarket said in a 911 call. "The store is on fire! OK. We got to go."  A man is heard yelling "Get out! Get out!"

The amphibious Seawind 3000 plane encountered problems shortly after taking off from the DeLand Municipal Airport, less than two miles from the shopping center. Small planes such as the one that crashed typically do not have black boxes that record the speed and altitude of the plane, but it may have a GPS, although it "may have been compromised by the fire."

Weir said Presbrey left the Aurora Airport for Florida over the weekend for a non-business trip. Weir wasn't sure who was flying the plane but said Presbrey is an excellent pilot. "He's been flying for a substantial amount of years and also can fly multi-engine airplanes," he said.

Presbrey is active in the law community in the Chicago area and donates to various law associations and community youth groups. said Weir, a former judge.

Presbrey's biography on the law firm website says he is a former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Bar Association, and graduated from Northwestern University and the Vanderbilt University Law School.  He is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman.
Joe Ruzich contributed to this report.
Source:   http://www.chicagotribune.com

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