A single-engine airplane crashed yesterday afternoon soon after taking off from Tipton Airport in Anne Arundel County, killing two passengers, officials said. One of the victims was reported to be the chief executive of a Chicago plastics recycling company.
The plane - a Piper PA 46 - crashed in a heavily wooded area and caught fire about a half-mile from the airport's runway, just after taking off about 3:45 p.m., said officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.
Anne Arundel County firefighters extinguished the blaze in about 15 minutes, but the victims were badly burned and will have to be identified using dental records, said 1st Sgt. Russell Newell, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police.
"Everything was charred and burned," Newell said. "A large majority of the plane was burned. Very little was recognizable."
Airport officials declined to comment yesterday, referring questions to the state police.
The plane is registered to Eberhardt Air Inc. at an address in Downers Grove, Ill. The suburban Chicago address is also listed in public records as the residence of Daniel L. Eberhardt, a registered commercial pilot..
A relative of Eberhardt's confirmed that he died in the crash, according to the Chicago Tribune. Eberhardt, 57, is president and chief executive officer of MRC Polymers Inc. in Chicago. MRC recycles plastics for automobiles, boats and furniture. The identity of the other victim could not be confirmed.
"We were hoping for the best," his son-in-law, Stan Sypien, told the Tribune. "I did get a call from my sister-in-law while I was at work, and she wanted me to confirm and see whether his plane was in the hangar. It was not."
Eberhard loved to fly, Sypien said, and had a private airstrip outside his back door.
"His love was flying, second to his family," Sypien said. "He was definitely a family man."
According to FlightAware, a tracking and aviation data service company, the plane arrived at Tipton about 6 p.m. Oct. 16 from Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
Scott Ainsworth and Chuck Kimmel were hunting deer in tree stands near the airport when they heard the plane take off and then crash moments later.
"I heard it take off, and that sounded right," said Ainsworth, 36, a Prince George's County police officer. "There should have been a fading noise. Then all of a sudden it stopped, followed by a muffled bang."
The two men rushed to the scene, but the fire was already out.
"There was nothing anyone could have done to save them," Ainsworth said.
Tipton is a 366-acre facility bordered by Fort Meade, the National Security Agency, and the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge. A former U.S. Army airfield, Tipton closed in 1995 and reopened in 1999 and is now under the control of the state's airport authority.
The last plane crash at Tipton was in July 2001, when a 980 Cessna 172P single-engine airplane crashed into a tree after takeoff. A student pilot and his instructor were uninjured in the crash.
About 50,000 takeoffs or landings occur annually on Tipton's 3,000-foot runway. Many are recreational, but a growing number of business executives are bypassing larger area airports and landing private aircraft at Tipton to get to meetings in the region.
Sun reporter Bradley Olson contributed to this report; Nicole Fuller wrote it.