Airplane Crash In San Juans Kills Three -- Single-Engine Craft Plummets Near Home Where Seven Slept
ROCHE HARBOR, San Juan Island - Three people were killed when their small airplane crashed and burst into flames near a home outside this San Juan Island community, authorities said.
The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza had just taken off from Roche Harbor Air Strip and was turning when it struck trees about 11:50 p.m. Saturday and crashed about 20 feet from a home where seven people were sleeping.
Two of those killed were from California and the other crash victim was from Colorado.
They were returning from a trip to Alaska via British Columbia, said San Juan County Sheriff Bill Cumming.
Cumming said those aboard the plane were tentatively identified as Martin J. Chizzick, 43, of Boulder, Colo.; LaCretia James, 48, of Palo Alto, Calif.; and the pilot, David J. Mees, about 48, also of Palo Alto.
Autopsies were planned today.
The plane's right wing struck the home, but no one inside was hurt.
Sheriff's dispatcher Tom Eades said damage to the home was estimated at about $500.
Bob Wells, the owner of the home, said six children ranging in age from 15 months to 9 years slept through the crash.
Investigators from the sheriff's office, Beechcraft, National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were investigating.
The air strip at Roche Harbor, about 80 miles northwest of Seattle, is paved and lighted at night.
The left wing fell off after clipping a tree on takeoff.
The right wing struck the roof of the house just above the three bedrooms where the children were sleeping.
Wells, who is a pilot, said he awoke and recognized the sound of a small plane in trouble.
"I heard it hit the trees, and it came and hit the corner of my house and the back of my truck and exploded," he said.
"That was really loud. It woke me right up. I jumped out of bed and tried not to panic."
Wells said he did what he could to put out the fire.
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