Seven employees of a Florida real estate firm were among those who died when their small plane crashed into an Ohio apartment building Tuesday, the firm said today.
The plane, a 10-passenger Hawker business jet, was approaching Akron Fulton International Airport when it slammed into a four-unit apartment building at about 3:00 p.m., killing nine people including the crew.
Weather conditions at the time were poor, with low visibility and fog, Quincy Vagell, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, told NBC News.
Pebb Enterprises, a Boca Raton, Fla., commercial real estate firm that scouts locations for malls, said seven of its employees were killed in the crash, in addition to the pilot and co-pilot:
"Our hearts are broken this morning with the news of the tragic accident that took the lives of two principals and five employees of Pebb Enterprises. We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished. Our first priority is to give our fullest support to the family members and loved ones of our co-workers. We ask for the media's understanding and cooperation at this time of unimaginable loss and mourning and are not responding to media requests at this time."
The company did not name the victims, but The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that Diane Smoot, 50, Pebb's director of lease administration and property accounting, died in the crash.
No one was in the apartment building at the time. One resident, Jason Bartley, a 38-year-old factory worker, narrowly missed being there.
Bartley told The Akron Beacon-Journal he had left his apartment shortly before the crash to go to the bank. He was heading home at about 2:45 p.m. but decided to stop to buy food, the newspaper reported:
"As he was driving back to his apartment, he saw the smoke and flames and knew they would be very near his residence. Because the roads were closed, he parked his car and ran in that direction. When he saw that his apartment was the one ablaze, he immediately thought: 'Oh my God. What did I do?'
"Eventually a bystander told him about the plane."
The plane had left Fort Lauderdale Monday and then stopped at several cities in the Midwest, including St. Paul, Minn.; St. Louis, and Moline, Ill., according to the website Flightaware.com. It left Cincinnati Tuesday morning and flew to Dayton, before heading for Akron.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are at the scene, attempting to discover what caused the crash.