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Jet Plane on Approach to Chicago Executive Airport Crashes in Forest Preserve

Tue January 05 2010 2:38 pm
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Authorities say a Royal Air cargo jet that was cleared for landing crashed in a forest preserve near Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling around 2 p.m. Tuesday. It’s not immediately clear how many people were aboard and if there were injuries.

UPDATE JAN 07 2010 3:45 PM: The pilot of the Royal Air Freight Learjet 35 has been identified as Steven Ellis, 38, of Pontiac, Michigan. The co-pilot has been identified as Ryan Daenzer, 40, of Osceola County, Michigan. The bodies of both pilots were extricated from the crash area by Wednesday night.

A jet on approach to Runway 34 at Chicago Executive Airport crashed south of the airport just before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The airplane is reported to be on the west bank of the Des Plaines River close to the intersection of River Road and Camp McDonald Road. The pilot and co-pilot were killed in the crash in the Cook County Forest Preserve area between Milwaukee Avenue and River Road north of Euclid Avenue/Lake Avenue.

Very few witnesses saw the plane crash. The control tower reported to the fire department that the plane went down and was lost on radar. One witness called from the Allstate building at 2775 Sanders Road in Northbrook reporting that he witnessed from a fifth floor office window a plane crash nose first into the forest preserve. His report helped rescue personnel surround the general location of the crash site by giving the best description of the location, until helicopter crews spotted the crash site from the air.

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Lear Jet 35 crash site. (Location may not be precise).

View Chicagoland Major Fires & Rescues in a larger map
Crash scene including the view of Chicago Executive Airport and Runway 34. The crash scene was about 1.5 miles short of the Runway 34

The Learjet 35 took off from Oakland County International Airport at 1:47 PM EST (12:47 PM CST) and was due at Chicago Executive Airport at 1:27 PM CST (Flight Tracker from for Royal Air Freight #988 January 5, 2010). Officials said the Learjet 35A, owned by Royal Air Charter of Waterford, Mich., left suburban Detroit about 90 minutes before the crash and was scheduled to pick up cargo in Wheeling and carry it to Atlanta. The Lear Jet had been cleared to land at Chicago Executive Airport when it went down about 1:30 p.m., officials said.

There was no smoke, and no flames were visible from the crash, so rescuers were beginning to wonder if the plane hit the Des Plaines River. Paulie LaPointe a free lance videographer with Spot News Chicago arrived early on the scene. En route he called his contacts at the news stations, and soon helicopters from Shadow Traffic with Kris Habermehl aboard and WLS-TV Channel 7 were rushing to the scene. La Pointe’s instinct of the importance of getting the choppers out there to help locate the crash site turned out to be a true benefit in locating the crashed aircraft. Firefighters and police officers were looking for any hints of a crash — fuel film or oil spots in the river, a puff of smoke. Fuel film was reported, but the crash site was still not located. Then the choppers saw the wreckage about 30 minutes after the crash was reported, and hovered directly overhead so rescuers could trek in the direction of the helicopter. The wreckage was badly broken and split into two debris fields near the west bank of the Des Plaines River about one-quarter mile north of Euclid Avenue.

The emergency scene was managed by MABAS Division 3, and included fire departments from Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, and Glenview. Later fire departments from Des Plaines, Evanston, Northbrook, Arlington Heights, Newport, Highland Park, Wilmette and others responded as mutual aid fire departments.

A Diver’s Box alarm was called since fire department divers were needed to perform recovery operations at the scene.

Officials from Chicago Executive Airport, NTSB, the Department of Homeland Security were also quick to get to the scene. Area police departments assisted police departments from Cook County Forest Preserve, Mount Prospect, Wheeling and Prospect Heights, which have jurisdictions near the crash.

Airplane crash fire response Audio dispatched
by Red Center (

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