Two killed as plane crashes near homes in Ohio: media

(Reuters) – Two pilots were killed and four passengers injured when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Monday in northeastern Ohio, clipping power lines and almost crashing into homes in snow-covered Apple Creek, U.S. media reported, citing officials.

Unspecified engine issues likely caused the crash, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, citing the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

News photos showed the front end of Douglas DC-3 broken off, exposing the interior with bits of plane debris spread about. It appeared to have skidded into trees about 60 miles (100 km) south of Cleveland.

“There’s pieces of debris up against the house and things. We’re very lucky that maybe the trees stopped them from going into the house,” Michael Morrison, identified as a property owner near the crash site, told ABC News. “I’ve never felt a force inside the house that strong where it shook the house.”

The plane was a DC-3-65TP, a twin turbo-prop model that first flew in 1944, according to Aviation Safety Network, a website dedicated to flight safety. A modified version of the plane first flew in 1986, the site said. It was not immediately clear how old this particular plane was.

The plane took down power lines, knocking out electricity and phone service in the area, but nobody on the ground was injured, Fox 8 Cleveland reported.

The crash killed pilot Brian Stoltzfus, 55, and co-pilot Curtis Wilkerson, 56, the Plain Dealer reported, citing the Highway Patrol.

The plane had taken off from the private Stoltzfus Airfield, where the phone went unanswered.

Stoltzfus was identified as the president of Priority Air Charter, according to its website, which also advertised a DC-3 for sale. Company representatives did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

“Brian loves to fly and spends much of his time in East Africa in missionary aviation,” according to his biography on the company website. “Hunting is a big interest when he’s not in the sky. He and his wife Sandi have four grown children, and three grandchildren.”

State transportation officials referred queries to the Highway Patrol, which did not respond to requests for information.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler

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