Empty House Lots Remind Residents of Deadly 2013 Plane Crash

March 19, 2014

Lots stand empty where two houses were destroyed a year ago, a reminder of the deadly crash of a private plane into a neighborhood near a northern Indiana airport.

The March 17, 2013, crash killed former University of Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis and Tulsa, Okla., businessman Wes Caves, who were coming in for an emergency landing at South Bend Regional Airport.

Another house damaged in the crash has been rebuilt, but the aftermath for the destroyed houses is now tied up in a lawsuit involving two injured plane passengers and the homeowners’ insurance companies against the manufacturer and owners of the plane.

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report pointed to engine trouble and failure of the plane’s main landing gear to extend. A final report on the crash investigation will likely be released in the near future, agency spokesman Terry Williams told the South Bend Tribune.

“But I can’t give a date,” he said.

Neighborhood resident Kelly Reygaert said the empty lots are a constant reminder.

“Each time you drive by up and down on Iowa Street you know it’s right there,” she told WSBT-TV.

Jim Rodgers, a Tulsa firefighter, and his son-in-law Chris Evans were passengers on the plane and were both badly injured. An attorney for the family has said Rodgers was unlikely to recover from serious brain injuries, while Evans suffered orthopedic injuries.

Rodgers and Evans worked for Caves, whose automotive coating business, Digicut Sales, was an owner of the jet. Caves was traveling to northern Indiana for business, according to a lawsuit filed last year.

Davis, who was Oklahoma’s starting quarterback as the Sooners won the 1974 and 1975 national championships, was a friend of Caves.

The preliminary NTSB report said one of the pilots radioed to controllers soon before the crash that the plane had lost all power and was barely controllable.

On a second runway approach, the pilot tried to land with only the plane’s nose landing gear extended. Witnesses said the plane bounced several times on the runway before it climbed into a right turn, then nose-dived into the neighborhood.

A woman who lived in one of the houses was hospitalized for three days after the crash.

Emergency workers said they’re still amazed that more people on the ground weren’t hurt or killed in the crash that happened on a Sunday afternoon.

“Even with all the training, all the preparation, you are obviously never prepared totally for that,” said Scott Ruszkowski, a South Bend Fire Department division chief.

Reygaert said that odd sounds from planes passing overhead in her neighborhood can be unnerving.

“That’s what brings those memories back,” she said. “You wonder, ‘OK, where’s it at, where’s it located?”‘

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