3 people killed in small plane crash near Columbus

LOCKBOURNE, OH (AP) - An empty cargo plane crashed into a row of trees and skidded into a cornfield shortly after takeoff Monday, killing all three crew members and sparking a fire, authorities said.

The twin-engine 1956 Convair 580, owned by local cargo transporter Air Tahoma, departed from Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus at around noon and had turned around to land at the airport. It crashed south of Columbus near the town of Lockbourne, Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Tony Bradshaw said.

The pilot radioed the airport just before the crash to ask for a landing strip, but said there was no need for emergency equipment, Pickaway County Sheriff Dwight Radcliff said.

Kevin Roberts, who lives on a farm near the crash site, was repairing a tractor when he and a friend heard the plane.

"We heard the plane fly low, and it sounded so loud it shook the barn," he said. "Then we heard a boom. We looked out and saw smoke."

Another nearby resident, Bill Plants, arrived at the fiery wreckage before emergency crews, thinking he could help with possible survivors.

"As soon as I got there, I knew it was useless," he said.

The plane was headed to Mansfield in northern Ohio, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said. Bradshaw said the victims were: Urs Anderegg of Miami, 58, James Monahan, 57, of Plantation, Fla., and Sean Gardiner, 41, of Miami.

The Federal Aviation Administration was trying to determine which of the victims was the pilot. Seven fire departments worked to bring the fire under control, with some firefighters driving tankers through cornfields to get to the hard to reach site. That corn was just a few weeks from harvest, said Don Peters, whose family owns the farmland where the crash took place.

The Air Tahoma plane wasn't the first to crash at the farm. During World War II, when Rickenbacker was known as Lockbourne Army Air Base, two B-17 bombers clipped each another in the air. One landed safely at the base, while the other crashed at the farm, Peters said.

Rickenbacker now serves as a cargo hub and has a charter passenger terminal. Air Tahoma, which is based at the airport, flies often to the Philippines, Vietnam and the Caribbean, and has been a subcontractor for bigger carriers, such as DHL and FedEx. A telephone number for the company could not be found.

One of two crew members died in 2004 near Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky., in another Air Tahoma crash. The FAA has cited the company for flight operations problems several times, most recently in 2005.

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