Small plane crashes in OK, five dead

September 5, 2009 5:16:17 PM PDT
A small aircraft plummeted into an Oklahoma park and burst into flames on Saturday after hitting a guide wire from a communications tower, killing all five people on board, investigators said. The six-passenger plane was on its way to Dallas when it crashed amid heavy fog near a baseball field in Tulsa, said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. George Brown.

"The wings came off. The engine came off," Brown said. "When it hit, it rolled. It did catch fire. It rolled at least a couple of times, ejecting the occupants."

Two men, a woman and two girls were declared dead at the scene. Their names have not been released but Brown said all five were from Tulsa. No one on the ground was injured.

The Piper PA-32 took off for Dallas Love Field from Jones Riverside Airport in Tulsa at 10:37 a.m. It crashed about 30 minutes later into Chandler Park, a recreation area with athletic fields and picnic facilities.

The tower in the park was between 150 feet and 200 feet tall, Brown said.

"Because of weather conditions, there was a low cloud ceiling that obscured the communications tower," he said. "It's apparent that the pilot did not see this tower."

Jeremy Richards said he was at the park for a motorcycle rally when he heard the crash. Richards told the Tulsa World it sounded like the crack of a whip.

"I never heard that noise before," Richards said. "I turned around to look and I see something flying through the air. I realized later that it was a body."

He and a friend, Mike Walker, were only about 100 yards away and ran to the plane, the front of which was engulfed in flames, he said.

"Nobody was able to be saved. Nothing could be done," Richards said. "It's just insane. It's not something that was expected at all. I don't know how to explain it."

FAA records indicate the aircraft was manufactured in 1976 and registered to Stephen T. Lester of Tulsa.

There was no residential listing for Lester and no one answered the phone at the office of a Dr. Stephen T. Lester in Tulsa. Officials at Dallas Love Field said they were not aware of the purpose of the trip.

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