Thursday, July 21, 2016

Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, N7409Y: Fatal accident occurred July 21, 2016 in Plainfield, Illinois

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report:

Garry Thomas Bernardo: 

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA W. Chicago-DuPage (NON Part 121) FSDO-03

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA276
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, July 21, 2016 in Plainfield, IL
Aircraft: PIPER PA 30, registration: N7409Y
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 21, 2016, about 1114 central daylight time, a Piper PA 30 airplane, N7409Y, impacted terrain during a descent near Plainfield, Illinois. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed during the impact and subsequent fire. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal fight. Day visual meteorological conditions were reported near the accident site about the time of the accident and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport (SRB), near Sparta, Tennessee, and was destined for the Eagle River Union Airport, near Eagle River, Wisconsin.

According to preliminary information, the airplane was fueled with 73.61 gallons of 100 low lead aviation gasoline at SRB on July 21, 2016. The pilot requested flight following during the flight from air traffic controllers. Flight following service availability is based on controller workload. The flight was about to leave one controller's sector and the pilot was told his flight following was cancelled. The pilot contacted a controller for the next sector along the route of flight and the pilot was told to stand by. That was the last recorded communication with the accident airplane.

According to preliminary information, witnesses saw the airplane descend. Sections of the airplane impacted multiple locations in the Plainfield area. The wreckage that impacted near Bedford Drive and Hampton Court caught on fire and a nearby building also caught on fire. Witnesses reported weather in the area consistent with a thunderstorm that formed rapidly. Witnesses called 911 when the airplane sections impacted near them. No ground injuries were reported.

The 58-year-old pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial pilot certificate with airplane multiengine land and instrument airplane ratings. He held private pilot privileges in single engine land airplanes. He also held a FAA third-class medical certificate issued on May 31, 2016, with limitations that the pilot "must wear lenses for distant, have glasses for near vision. Must wear corrective lenses, possess glasses for near/intermediate vision." A review of the recovered pilot's logbook indicated that he had accumulated 979.2 hours of total flight time. An endorsement, dated April 15, 2015, indicated that the pilot completed a flight review.

N7409Y was a 1964 model Piper PA 30, Twin Comanche airplane with serial number 30-470. The Twin Comanche was an all-metal, multiengine airplane that incorporated a semimonocoque fuselage and empennage design. The airplane was equipped with fully cantilevered wings, wing flaps, constant speed Hartzell propellers, and a retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane was powered by two Lycoming IO-320 engines. The IO-320 engine is a four-cylinder, 320 cubic-inch displacement, fuel injected, reciprocating engine. A review of recovered maintenance records showed that the airplane had undergone an annual inspection completed on September 22, 2015.

At 1115, the recorded weather at the Joliet Regional Airport (JOT), near Joliet, Illinois, was: Wind 230 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition broken clouds at 2,100 feet; Temperature 32 degrees C; dew point 27 degrees C; altimeter 30.10 inches of mercury.

At 1135, the recorded weather at JOT was: Wind 210 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; present weather thunderstorms in the vicinity; sky condition scattered clouds at 2,100 feet, broken clouds at 4,200 feet, broken clouds at 5,000 feet; Temperature 31 degrees C; dew point 27 degrees C; altimeter 30.10 inches of mercury.

The main wreckage was found on a driveway on the south side of Bedford Drive just east of its intersection with Hampton Court. Using Google Earth, the main wreckage was about 328 degrees and 2.65 nautical miles (nm) from the center of JOT. The impact angle of the fuselage with terrain was consistent with a nearly vertical descent at this location. The main wreckage to include the fuselage, empennage, right engine, right wing, and inboard section of the left wing at this location were discolored, deformed, charred, and melted, with sections consumed by fire. The empennage was found resting on the ground inverted. The right engine's propeller exhibited chordwise abrasion. The nose landing gear jackscrew position was consistent with it being retracted. The heading of the airplane was about 315 degrees.

Sections of fiberglass and aluminum consistent with cowling material were found along Theodore Road and along Bronk Road near their intersection. The intersection of the streets was about 108 degrees and .82 nm from the main wreckage site. An outboard section of the left wing was found near an access road to the Walmart parking lot. The left outboard wing section was about 144 degrees and .44 nm from the main wreckage site. The left fuel tank was found in the 1400 block of Broadlawn Drive. The left fuel tank was about 181 degrees and .41 nm from the main wreckage site. The left propeller cylinder and a section of its propeller dome and cap were found in the 1500 block of Broadlawn Drive. The left propeller cylinder and sections of its dome and cap were about 185 degrees and .36 nm from the main wreckage site. The left propeller was found in the 1500 block of Brookfield Drive. The left propeller was about 199 degrees and .35 nm from the main wreckage site. The left engine was found in the 1600 block of Wildflower Drive. The engine was about 204 degrees and .24 nm from the main wreckage site.

The Will County Coroner's Office was asked to perform an autopsy on the pilot and take samples for toxicological testing.

The FAA was asked for a copy of radar data and communications in reference to the accident airplane's flight.

A study of recorded weather in reference to the accident airplane's flight was requested.

After the on-scene examination was completed, the airplane was transported to a recovery company for detailed examination.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

JOLIET – The pilot of the plane that crashed Thursday into a Brighton Lakes subdivision in Joliet was from Lake Worth, Florida.

The pilot was identified Friday as Garry Thomas Bernardo by the Will County Coroner's Office. The coroner's office said it used fingerprint comparison to confirm the identity; officials said on Thursday that the remains were in a condition that could not be identified and it might take some time to positively identify the pilot.

Bernardo, 58, was pronounced dead at 2:58 p.m. Thursday at Bedford Drive and Hampton Court. Officials believe the pilot was the only person in the plane at the time of the crash.

An autopsy performed Friday found the preliminary cause of death to be multiple injuries due to airplane mishap, according to the coroner's office.

Authorities said parts of the plane were located as far as a mile away from where it crashed, suggesting it may have been coming apart before it hit the ground at 11:14 a.m., leaving the aircraft decimated.

Terry Williams, a spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board, said Friday afternoon that the incident investigation is still in the fact-gathering stage. It is standard procedure to look at the pilot’s records and logbooks, the plane’s maintenance and modification records, the weather at the time and more.

Williams said it is too early to say if weather played a factor in the crash. It had just rained in the Joliet area prior to the incident.

The NTSB gathered witness accounts of the crash from Joliet police, Williams said.

The Joliet Police Department is asking residents who locate debris from the plane crash to bring it to the Police Command Post, which is located at Chestnut Hill and Bedford, according to a post on the department's Facebook page.

The Command post will be stationed there until the end of Friday. Anyone who finds debris after Friday should call 815-726-2491 and an officer will be dispatched to recover the debris.

The remnants of the plane where it crashed were in the process of being moved out of Brighton Lakes on Friday. Investigators will move the plane to a secure location soon to examine the engines and how the plane was maintained, according to the NTSB.

Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said at 1 p.m. Friday officials are hoping to clear Bedford Drive by the end of the day.

An aircraft recovery team was gathering wreckage onto a flatbed trailer Friday. Benton said NTSB usually works with the team to piece the plane together. They then looking at flight tracking and any possible communication with traffic controllers.

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Garry Thomas Bernardo

JOLIET – A plane crashed late Thursday morning on a residential street in Joliet, igniting a fire that destroyed much of a nearby two-story residence.

Parts of the plane were located as far as a mile away, suggesting it may have been coming apart before it hit the ground.

Ed Malinowski with the NTSB says the plane was a Piper PA-30, according to the Associated Press. It had taken off from Florida, landed in Tennessee before taking off again and was headed for Wisconsin.

Joliet City Manager Jim Hock said the pilot died in the crash, and the remains were in a condition that could not be identified. Hock said he expected a statement from the coroner on Friday.

He also said investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were "out there and said there was only the pilot in the plane."

The crash occurred at 11:14 a.m. at 1812 Hampton Court, according to the Joliet Fire Department. The home is in Joliet but has a Plainfield address, and is under the jurisdiction of the Joliet fire and police departments.

"Parts of the plane hit the ground a mile away," Hock said. "Something happened a ways before it crashed."

Joliet Deputy Fire Chief Ray Randich said during a news conference early Thursday afternoon that crews arriving at the scene were met outside by the homeowner. He said officials believed she had just returned to the home and was outside when the plane crashed, but noted the investigation is still in its early stages.

Randich said officials believe the fuel tanks ruptured when the plane came down and the fuel spilled out onto the street and toward the house. The plane was on the south side of the street and the house that ignited was across to the north.

The ignition source is unknown at this point, he said. Authorities could not immediately confirm what type of plane it was.

"We are very fortunate to have a plane crash in a crowded residential neighborhood like this and not have any additional injuries," Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said. "It’s amazing."

Benton noted the incident is still under investigation and local officials will work with the FAA.

The plane did not leave the Joliet Regional Airport, said Airport Manager Jennifer McFarland.

"From our staff accounts we know he was not here," McFarland said.

McFarland said she would not know if the plane was headed to the Joliet airfield because it is an uncontrolled airport and does not get advance notice of incoming planes.

The FAA has sent a team to the crash site to determine the type of aircraft and to begin an investigation, the federal agency said in an emailed statement.

"The FAA will gather information and pass it to the [National Transportation Safety Board], which is the agency that will lead the investigation and will determine the probably cause of the accident," the FAA said in the statement. "Any additional information needs to come from the NTSB."

The remains of the plane were seen smoldering in the street, and area residents were seen using garden hoses near the wreckage immediately following the crash.

Pat Crotty said she was in her yard at Bedford Drive and Brighton Lane, about a block away, doing yard work when she saw the plane spiraling out of control. It happened so fast she wasn't able to tell what kind of plane it was.

Crotty said the plane made an "unearthly" sound when it crashed into the ground and that debris from the plane exploded upon impact. She believes the debris collided with the house, and that is what caused it to catch fire.

Crotty said she ran down the street barefoot after the crash, knocking on people's doors to get them out of their houses. She said she also told people to clear the street so emergency crews could get there.

Ann Zigrossi lives in the Hampton Glen subdivision, across Theodore Street from the subdivision where the incident occurred. When she heard the crash, not long after it had been raining, she thought it was thunder.

"I just thought, rain – thunder," she said.

Multiple fire engines and ambulances responded to the crash site, and at one point people on the scene said they have been pushed back, with authorities saying they were unsure if there was a gas leak.

The Joliet Police Department asked motorists to avoid the area of the crash.

“At approximately 11:15, a small plane went down in the area of Theodore and Brighton. Please seek alternative routes near Rt. 59 and Theodore, and Theodore and River Rd while the crash is investigated,” the department stated in a posting on its Facebook page.

Joliet Police have been asked to secure the scene throughout tomorrow as the NTSB investigation continued, Benton said later Thursday afternoon. He noted the investigation can be a drawn-out process, and take up to a year to conclude what happened.

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Aircraft propeller fell about three blocks from crash scene.

Part of aircraft engine, it fell a few blocks from crash site.

A small plane crashed on a residential block in Joliet Thursday morning, killing the pilot and setting a two-story house on fire, officials said.

First reports indicated the plane struck the house in the in the 1800 block of Hampton Court on the city's far west side, but a Joliet fire official said Thursday afternoon said authorities were not discounting that the plane may have struck the ground first and flames from it ignited the house.

Ed Malinowski of the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was a Piper PA30.

The crash occurred at 11:14 a.m. Authorities don't believe anyone else was on the plane, based on a discussion with an employee of the pilot, Malinowski said. The pilot has not been identified.

The plane took off from Florida, landed in Tennessee and was en route to Wisconsin. Malinowski said he didn't know why the pilot was going to Wisconsin.

Witnesses said they saw the plane "in distress." The impact of the collision shook houses blocks away and created a fireball, they said.

The sole occupant of the home at the time told authorities she was on the first floor when she heard a loud crash followed by a loud bang and saw flames outside one of her windows at the front of the home, according to Joliet Fire Department Battalion #2 Chief John Stachelski. The woman escaped uninjured with a pet. Neighbors said she escaped with two dogs.

Pat Crotty, who lives about a block away from the site, said she saw a plane coming from the southwest in a nose dive toward the ground, spiraling out of control.

She said it crashed in the street, spark ing a three-to-four-story streak of flames. Debris from the plane hit the house, starting it on fire, Crotty said.

She said she ran in her bare feet down the street, toward the plane. When she realized the severity of the damage to the plane, she started knocking on doors to alert nearby residents, she said.

Stachelski said investigators believe only one person was killed in the wreck. The pilot has not been identified. Stachelski said he was unclear whether the victim was man or woman.

There are no reports of injuries on the ground, according to Tony Molinaro, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane left a trail of debris for about a mile, Stachelski said, including a fuel tank found recovered behind a Wal-Mart store about a half mile southeast of the site.

The fire engulfed the top portion of the house but was brought under control by local firefighters.

The aircraft was destroyed, according to Lynn Lunsford of the FAA.

The crash happened in an area local residents call "Jofield" because it is near the border of Joliet and Plainfield.

Stachelski said the Joliet Fire Department received several called from witnesses who said they saw the plane going down and then heard the crash and saw flames.

"It first came in as a report of a plane down, but we didn't know the exact location," Stachelski said. "We had to follow the smoke from the house."

When they arrived, they found the home engulfed in flames, with debris from the plane scattered all around.

The FAA has sent a team to the crash site to determine the type of aircraft and to begin an investigation. The FAA will gather information and pass it to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is the agency that will lead the investigation and will determine the probable cause of the accident.

One local police officer said that the debris from the plane was spread out for a mile.

Violeta Stankus, who lives a few blocks from the crash scene and was walking in the neighborhood at the time of the incident, said the plane looked like it was "falling out of the sky."

"I said, God, and then it crashed, and I started screaming," Stankus said.

Some said it looked as if the plane was already on fire before the crash, and with debris scattered over several residential yards at the scene. There was essentially nothing left of the plane other than that debris.

John Goldsmith, who lives in the area, said he heard the plane going down but wasn't certain what it was at the time. He drove toward the smoke in order to find out what happened.

"It sounded like something was going down, and then I heard the crash," Goldsmith said.

Neighbors attempted to control the fire that was caused by spraying the house with garden houses until the fire department arrived.

Lisa Guardiola, who lives behind the house, said her "whole house shook" and she thought something hit the roof of her house. She said she felt very, very lucky and grateful because on a normal summer day her kids would have been outside playing at the time the plane crashed. But she kept them inside because of the heat. She went outside and saw her neighbor's house in flames.

"I could not tell from the wreckage that it was a plane," she said. Neighbors said this is normally a very quiet Suburban neighborhood.

Harriet Nagajew said she saw the engine fall off the plane, then saw it glide before spiraling downward. She said she heard the crash and instantly saw black smoke. She had been outside cleaning her pool and ran inside and had her son call 911.

"I was devastated," she said. "This is such a shock to the neighborhood."

Jordan Dralle, who also lives in the neighborhood, said small planes fly overhead all the time.

"Nothing really ever happens here," she said of the quiet area of single family homes. "Nothing like this has ever happened here. It's amazing"

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Fredy Colon watched part of the aircraft engine fall from the sky onto his backyard. 

Deputy Chief Ray Randich and Joliet City Manager Jim Hock address the public and media Thursday, July 21, after a plane struck a home in Joliet. 

Police Chief Brian Benton addresses the public and media Thursday, July 21, after a plane struck a home in Joliet. 

(CBS) — The pilot of a small plane was killed when the plane crashed in a subdivision in unincorporated Plainfield late Thursday morning, setting a nearby house on fire.

The FAA said a plane with one person on board crashed into a home in Plainfield and caught fire, but local officials at the scene said it appeared the plane landed short of the house, and sent flames shooting into the side of the home.

Joliet Deputy Fire Chief Ray Randich said it appears the plane’s fuel tank ruptured when it hit the ground near the intersection of Hampton Court and Bedford Drive, and set a nearby house on fire.

“The house that ignited was across to the north, up onto the parkway, so there was quite a bit of a distance between where the plane came onto the street, and where the flames made contact with the house,” he said.

Joliet officials said the pilot was killed, but no injuries were reported on the ground.

“We are fortunate to have a plane crash in a crowded neighborhood like this and not have any additional injuries,” Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said.

Joliet city manager Jim Hock said no one was inside the home at the time of the crash. Joliet city officials responded to the plane crash because it occurred in unincorporated Plainfield.

Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were headed to the site to begin their probe of the crash.

Hock would not comment on witness accounts that the plane might have been struck by lightning.

The plane’s engine and propeller landed a few blocks away from the crash site — the engine in the back yard of a home, and the propeller on a street next to a parked car.

One woman said she was walking her dog when she noticed a small white plane that was flying low and appeared to be tipped on its side shortly before the crash.

“The engine didn’t sound any different on it. I just thought he was out for kind of a fly, and that he was making a very sharp turn, because he was literally sideways when he was making a turn, and then I never saw the plane after that,” she said.

Andrew Scardina said he saw the plane take a very sharp turn before nosediving into the ground.

“I saw the plume of smoke coming up when it hit the ground. It’s just a few blocks from where I was standing,” he said.

“There was a very loud boom,and the windows and mirror were shaking,” said Katie Arushanyan. “My son started screaming fire, fire, fire.”

Fredy Colon was standing in his backyard with his wife when objects began falling from the sky.

It turns out those objects were parts of the plane that crashed blocks away, including the engine.

“The initial reaction, the adrenaline takes over, and I’m just looking up at the sky making sure there are no other parts,” Colon said.

And not too far away, Gary Cue saw the propeller land on the street, damaging his car.

“I was in my porch actually and I saw propeller come off,” Cue said. “I thought it was something black and it hit the car.”

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