The twin-engine Beech Baron 58 aircraft reportedly split in half after it struck a median barrier along Interstate Highway 75, flipped over and came to a rest on the shoulder of the southbound lanes. The plane struggled to gain altitude from the moment it took off, authorities said.
Moshe Menora of Skokie, was killed along with his granddaughters Rikki, 16, and Rachel Menora, 14, and Sara Klein, 17, who were visiting from Israel, reports the Jewish website matzav.com.
A fifth person, 13-year-old Yossi Menora from Bet Shemesh, Israel, was ejected from the plane when it split open from the pressure. He was taken to a Michigan hospital with burns over 50 percent of his body.
Police said the twin engine plane had not yet reached 1,000 feet after taking off from the Mackinac County Airport when it encountered trouble. The plane flipped after striking a median barrier on I-75, before resting on the shoulder about 250 miles northwest of Detroit.
Moshe Menora and his grandchildren took off about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday in the six-passenger plane from a small airport outside Chicago on a day trip to Mackinac, his widow said.
Moshe Menora had about 30 years of experience as a pilot and had just had the plane serviced.
"He just wanted to do something with the children for a few hours," Sema Menora said. "They wanted to go in the plane. It was a special treat and he was a very skilled pilot.
"He had a very good relationship with his grandchildren. He enjoyed flying and wanted them to be part of what he loved, and they loved it."
Sema Menora said she last spoke with her husband Tuesday morning before they left.
"I just said, 'Have fun, have a good trip and I'll see you for dinner,'" she said.
By dinnertime, a meal of baked salmon, mashed potatoes and salad was ready.
"I knew they would be starved," Sema Menora added. "They were coming back about 5:30 p.m. Something went wrong in the takeoff."
Sholom Menora — father of Rikki, Rachel and Yossi — told his mother from the Michigan hospital where Yossi was being treated, that the plane had split in half. The boy was in the rear of the plane at takeoff, Sema Menora said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The FAA said the plane's tail number is 3081N and that the aircraft is registered in Illinois.
Moshe was an experienced pilot who flew two to three times a week, taking off from Palwaukee Airport.
Rikki and Rachel came from Bet Shemesh, Israel, along with their brother. Sara was from Jerusalem.
Moshe Menora was born in Haifa, Israel, and had been working in real estate in the Chicago area. He and Sema Menora celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March. He had three children and 17 grandchildren.
A report from 9 & 10 News in Northern Michigan, below, reveals photos from the crash site: