Rantoul plane crash kills three
RANTOUL - Three people were killed in a fiery plane crash south of the Rantoul Sunday morning.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said it will be late Monday before he can confirm the identities. Friends have said the trio has been tentatively identified as Jon Buerkett, 56; his wife, Dana Buerkett, 47; and their daughter, Morgan Buerkett, 19, all of Champaign.
Family friend Tom Fiedler said the Buerketts were headed to Florida, where Morgan, a volleyball player for the University of Chicago, was going to take part in a fitness camp.
Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber said emergency workers were called at 9:22 a.m. to an area south of the airport, described as being east of Century Boulevard, west of Leonard Avenue, north of Chandler Road and south of Tuskegee Avenue on the site of the former Chanute Air Force Base.
"The plane had just taken off from the airport and was starting to gain altitude when it went down. We have no further details on how it happened," Farber said, adding there were only three people in the plane.
Severe weather was making its way through the area at the time, he confirmed.
Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the crash scene late Sunday afternoon to begin their investigation.
Northrup said the autopsies will be done Monday afternoon. He said he would have to obtain dental records to confirm the identities. The plane burst into flames upon hitting the ground.
Farber was at the police department when the call came in and went to the scene. Rantoul firefighters put out the flames of the wreckage, which was strewn about.
Airport manager Bill Clayton said the remains of the wreckage would probably be taken to a secure area at the airport after the federal investigators had done their preliminary work. Mr. Buerkett kept his single-engine plane there.
Fiedler said his friend and business partner had been a pilot about 20 years and held an instrument rating. Friends said he was a meticulous and cautious pilot not known to take any risks when it came to flying in inclement weather.
Morgan Buerkett was a 2010 graduate of The High School of St. Thomas More, where she was an all-conference volleyball player, according to STM athletic director Dan Hennessey. Her parents were tremendous supporters of the team and the school in general, he said.
STM Principal Tim Millage said a prayer service for the family will be held at 5 p.m. Monday in the cafetorium of the school on North Mattis Avenue in Champaign.
"It's not a Mass .It’s come as you are, for people who might want to stop by on their way home from work," Millage said.