2 killed in plane crash near South Haven

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Two men who were in a plane reported missing late Tuesday died after it crashed near South Haven, officials said.

Authorities found the plane's wreckage early Wednesday morning about one mile north of South Haven Regional Airport, South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson said.

"Based on where the crash site was located, indications are that the plane crashed shortly after take-off," she said. 

Thompson made the remarks during a meeting to update the media Wednesday.

The bodies of the two men were found in the wreckage of the Aerospace 600 at about 7 a.m. Wednesday, she said.

She said the men are both believed to be about 70 years old. Investigators said one man was from the Lawton area, southwest of Kalamazoo, while the other was from the Wayland area, south of Grand Rapids.

According to a preliminary investigation, the Lawton-area man was the plane's owner and the other man was his flight instructor. Police said the instructor was certifying the owner to fly the aircraft before it crashed.

Thompson said the investigation into the cause of the crash has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board.  

The chief said Federal Aviation Administration officials in Chicago notified her department at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday about a missing plane. They told police the aircraft had taken off at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and didn't have any further contact with anyone.

Thompson said because the airport is small and the aircraft flight plan called for travel to nearby areas, the plane wouldn't have been closely monitored by air traffic controllers.

"Family members who had not heard from either of the two men reached out to air traffic controllers who then called the FAA," she said. "Then they started to check radar." 

The families of both men said they were both experienced pilots and instructors.

Police found no indications of an explosion, she said, and "it doesn't appear it was visible or apparently not heard by anyone."

Officials began a search for the plane, which was located by the Michigan State Police's Aviation Unit Tuesday night in a rural, wooded area.