The fiery jet crash at an Ohio apartment building Tuesday afternoon killed all nine people on board, including seven employees of a Florida real-estate firm, authorities said.
Pebb Enterprises said in a statement Wednesday that “our hearts are broken this morning” after learning that two principals and five employees were killed aboard the doomed twin-engine Hawker 125-700. They did not immediately identify the victims.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished,” the company said. “Our first priority is to give our fullest support to the family members and loved ones of our co-workers.”
ExecuFlight, the charter jet company that owns the 10-seater plane, first told the Akron Beacon Journal on Tuesday that the plane’s two crew members were also killed.
The plane took off from Dayton and was on its final approach to Akron Fulton International Airport when it crashed into the apartment complex in Akron just before 3 p.m. ET, federal aviation officials said. No one was injured on the ground, although 12 families were displaced.
Lt. Bill Haymaker of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Wednesday that no one was home at the four-family complex that was destroyed. He added that police would not identify all the victims until their remains are recovered.One of the passengers was Diane Smoot, her sister told NBC News.
Smoot’s sister, Beth Blakeslee, told NBC News that the Pebb Enterprises executives and staffers were on a trip scouting properties to buy for the Boca Raton-based commercial property management firm.
On Monday, the group made a multi-trip flight from Florida to Minnesota, then Iowa to Missouri, and then finally to Cincinnati to spend the night. On Tuesday, they flew from Cincinnati to Dayton, before the ill-fated flight to Akron.
Authorities have not officially confirmed the number of people on board or the number of fatalities, and officials have not determined the cause of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the scene, and recovery operations resumed Wednesday morning.
A team of forensic archaeologists from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, said they were treating the site as an archaeological dig. The head of the team also worked on recovering the remains of the passengers from Flight 93 after it crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on 9/11.
Haymaker said the crash site is small in scale, and includes the apartment complex and a neighboring embankment.
Quincy Vagell, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said Tuesday that conditions in the area were “poor, with low visibility and fog.”
“Outside of a controlled runway landing, getting a plane down safely in an emergency would have been a very tough task,” Vagell said.
The residential neighborhood in southeast Akron was filled with thick, black smoke billowing from the crash site. Witnesses described a “loud roar” and a plane plummeting from the sky.
“I heard a loud plane that sounded super low to the ground,” Hannah McCune, who lives near the crash scene, told NBC News. “Then I heard a big boom and looked up and saw a bunch of smoke and flames.”