PHILLIPS, Wis. — A small airplanefell apart in the air, killing the six people onboard, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday.
The Cessna 421 that crashed at 3:21 a.m. Saturday left from Waukegan, Illinois, and was flying to Winnipeg in the Canadian province of Manitoba, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said.
“The debris field suggested an in-flight break up,” Weiss said.
Lt. Gabe Lind at the Price County Sheriff’s Office said the debris field from the crash stretched about a quarter mile from a heavily wooded area onto a state highway.
The six people killed were identified Monday as 70-year-old Kevin James King, 56-year-old Thomas DeMauro, 21-year-old Kyle DeMauro, 63-year-old James Francis, 69-year-old Charles Tomlitz and 45-year-old George Tomlitz. The sheriff’s office has said they were headed to Canada for a fishing trip.
The DeMauros and King are from Bensenville, Illinois. Francis is from Norco, California. Charles Tomlitz is from Addison, Illinois, and George Tomlitz is from Brookfield, Illinois. Authorities did not say how they knew each other or the DeMauros relation to each other.
NTSB investigators say there was a discussion between the pilot of the plane and air traffic controllers about “local weather phenomenon” in Catawba, Wisconsin, which is near the crash site just southwest of the city of Phillips. Soon after, the aircraft dropped off radar.
Weiss said investigators are still trying to determine what type of weather the plane encountered and whether it caused the crash.
Thomas DeMauro was a physical education teacher at Tioga Elementary School in Bensenville, Illinois, and Charles Tomlitz was a maintenance director for the district, according to a Facebook post from the school.
“Mr. DeMauro and Mr. Tomlitz will be missed by all the Tioga Community,” the school’s co-principals wrote in the post on the Tioga Elementary School Facebook page.
In a statement to CBS affiliate WSAW-TV, the DeMauro family expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support.
“We would also like to express our heartfelt condolences to the other families affected by this tragedy. Tom was our beloved son, husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, teacher and coach,” the statement said. “Kyle was our dear son, brother, grandson, nephew and friend; a compassionate young man who had a promising future.”
WSAW-TV reports that the on-site investigation into the plane crash is over Monday. The wreckage was removed from the area and taken to another location for further investigation.
NTSB will likely release a preliminary report about the investigation within 10 days. Final reports, including what caused the crash, will likely be released within 12 to 18 months.
King was the only certified pilot on board the plane, according to WSAW-TV. He was rated to fly single engine and multi-engine planes, as well as instrument airplanes.
According to the FAA, the plane is owned by “Sky King Flying Service” based in Wilmington, Delaware. The plane was registered in 2011 and the registration was set to expire on November 30, 2017.
Sandy Jensen, owner of the nearby Happy Daze bar and restaurant, said she provided food for firefighters at the scene of the crash, WSAW-TV reports.
“Made up 35 burgers, cheeseburgers and fresh cheese curds we sent over, and some parade candy, because it’s the Fourth of July,” she told the station.
“That’s what the world’s all about is people helping people,” she added.