BLOOMINGTON — Federal authorities could eliminate some possible causes of Tuesday's plane crash as early as Wednesday, but the full report could take up to 18 months.
Five businessmen and two members of the Illinois State University athletics department died from blunt force trauma when their small plane crashed in a farm field east of Bloomington. They were on their way home from the NCAA basketball championship game in Indianapolis.
McLean County Coroner Kathy Davis identified the victims as pilot Thomas Hileman, 51, of Bloomington; Normal residents Aaron Leetch, 37, Andy Butler, 40, and Torrey Ward, 36; Jason Jones, 45, and Terry Stralow, 64, both of Bloomington; and Scott Bittner, 42, of Towanda.
The NTSB will hold its second media briefing on the crash at 5 p.m. at the old airport terminal building, 2901 E. Empire St., Bloomington.
"The wreckage had all aircraft components in a limited debris field," said Todd Fox, an air safety investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board's Chicago office. "We found it within one wingspan of the plane."
News of the crash rippled through Bloomington-Normal because the victims had close ties to ISU and the business community. The men included Leetch and Ward, both of the Illinois State University athletics department; Butler, a regional manager for Sprint; Jones, a financial manager; Stralow, co-owner of Pub II; and Bittner, owner of Eureka Locker Co.
The Cessna 414A belonged to Bittner's father, who was not aboard.
Hileman owned Hileman Aviation LLC, based at Central Illinois Regional Airport, and had 12,000 hours of flight time. Fox said Hileman had an airline transport pilot's license and had undergone a medical exam in February.
Davis said Hileman, Leetch, Stralow and Jones had to be identified by dental records. All seven victims were found fastened in their seats.
The wreckage has been moved to a secure hangar at CIRA, where it will be evaluated. The Cessna model does not contain a "black box," or instrument data recorder.
Fox said there was a post-impact fire near the engines, which is common.
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said the plane was located in a soybean field near Illinois 9 and McLean County Road 2100 East.
The aircraft was last in contact with air traffic controllers in Peoria and had left Indianapolis around midnight. The flight usually takes about an hour.
Fox said Peoria controllers cleared the Cessna for an instrument approach at CIRA, which does not have controllers after 10 p.m.
For an unknown reason, "they made a turn from the course to the runway," Fox said. Peoria contacted CIRA after the pilot did not acknowledge the end of the flight, as required.
CIRA workers searched the airport for the plane before calling local authorities to help look for it. A Bloomington police officer found the wreckage around 3 a.m.
CIRA Executive Director Carl Olsen said all CIRA operations were functioning at the time of crash.
Fox said there were low clouds, fog and maybe some light rain at the time.
The NTSB investigative team includes members of the air-frame and engine manufacturers and the Federal Aviation Administration. The multi-engine Cessna typically carries six to eight passengers.
The twin-engine Cessna 414 was first manufactured in 1968; the modified 414A, with a longer wingspan and simpler fuel system, began production 10 years later, according to the Aircraft Owners And Pilots website.
The Cessna 414A has a maximum speed of about 270 mph and was manufactured until 1985, when Cessna ceased production, according to the website Cessna.us.