Hinckley, IL Skydiving Plane Crashes, Sep 1992


Hinckley, Illinois (Daily Herald) -- A holiday outing ended in tragedy Monday as 12 men aboard a skydiving plane -- including a Naperville resident -- died when their twin-engine plane crashed just minutes after takeoff and burst into flames in a soybean field near Hinckey, Ill.
The victims included five skydiving students, four instructors, two camera operators and the pilot.
The Beechcraft B-18, operated by the Hinckley Parachute Center, was flying over farmland around 12:30 p.m. when one engine apparently lost power, said DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott.
Several motorists reported noticing that the plane was listing to one side and was flying at an unusually low altitude. The plane then crashed into a field about a mile north of Route 30 and burst into flames, Scott said. Authorities said they were called to the scene at 12:43 p.m.
Authorities identified the victims as:
CHRIS BARON, of Naperville.
ED BARON, of DeKalb.
RON HARRIS, of Spring Valley.
GLENN HOLDEN, of Chicago.
JIM MAHR, of Sugar Grove.
DON ANDERSON, of Dyer, Ind.
JOHN MURPHY, of St. John, Ind.
MATT BAILEY, of St. John, Ind.
BILL DAVIDSON, of Chicago.
WILLIAM BAYNE, of Baltimore, Md.
HOLDEN is the son-in-law of Cook County Board Commissioner Bobbie L. Steele.
CHRIS and ED BARON reportedly are sons of the parachute center's owner, Jim Baron, who was out of state and not immediately available for comment.
"This is going to be a real heavy blow for Jim," said Dave Torres, n Aurora police officer and family friend who had parachuted for 17 years. "This is terrible. This is devastating. This is the worst thing that could ever happen."
DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller said all the victims were severely burned. Autopsies are expected to be performed to determine the exact cause of death, he said. It did not appear any of the men were attempting to jump from the plane when it went down, Miller said.
Some witnesses reported hearing two explosions, said Mort Edelstein, a spokesman for the FAA.
One witness, Stephen Lee, said he saw the plane flying less than 40 feet from the ground and rocking from side to side.
"It was sort of floating down, left to right, left to right. It looked like it would land," he said.
"When it hit the ground, the plane fliipped over and burst into flames," Lee said. "It was immediately engulfed in flames from front to back.
Jim Burnett, who owns the farm field, said the plane crashed about 200 yards from his house. He said he saw smoke and ran to the plane with his two daughters about four minutes after the crash, but they could not get close enough to attempt a rescue.
"It was too hot," Burnett said. "It was already too much in flames."
Helicopters and search teams were initially dispatched into the surrounding countryside to see if some of the occupants might have had a chance to bail out before the plane's deadly plunge.
On the scene, the tail of the wrecked plane was visible above waist-high soybeans in the fields. Dozens of emergency vehicles were in the field and rescue workers fanned out on foot to search for victims before Scott declared that all aboard had died. Abot 3 1/2 hours afterthe crash, emergency worker began carrying bodies out of the wreckage.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, said Brent Bahler, a spokesman for the NTSB. Authorities expect the investigation to take nearly a year to complete, but a witness reported seeing smoke coming from the craft's left engine just before it crashed, Bahler said.
As part of the investigation, the NTSB will study the maintenance and inspection records of the aircraft, the experience and training of the pilot, the weights and seating positions of the passengers and the wreckage itself.
Edelstein said the plane belonged to EXA Inc. in nearby St. Charles. Sheriff's police did not know the age of the plane, but the Hinckley Parachute Center has operated for 22 years and conducts jumps six days a week, Torres said.
Michael Foster of Gardner, Ill., said he was scheduled to make a jump on the same plane later in the day.
"I don't know if it's a blessing that I was meant to go later," he said.
Although he has jumped before, Foster said the crash will not deter him from skydiving again.
"People die in car wrecks every day. You have to go with percentages. It's not as dangerous as getting into a car."

Daily Herald Chicago Illinois 1992-09-08