A couple was in the bedroom of their home on Chicago's Southwest Side early Tuesday morning when a small plane dove out of the sky and crashed into their home, coming within eight inches of where they were sleeping, Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Michael Fox said.
"They were unhurt and there's nothing wrong with them at all," he said during a morning press conference.
The pilot of the small cargo plane, an Aero Commander 500, did not survive the crash. He was later identified by family members as 47-year-old Eric Quentin Howlett of Ohio.
He departed from Midway International Airport at about 2:30 a.m. and soon after reported engine problems. He was attempting to return to the airport when he went down, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Corey said.
"He did not make it to the field. It looks he just went down just short of 31 Center," an air traffic controller is heard saying on a recording obtained via LiveATC.net.
Family members said the couple in the home was "shook up" by the ordeal.
"They woke up to a plane in their living room. Their bedroom was a foot away," said their son Rick Rolinskas. "It's surreal and it's a miracle. My heart goes out to the pilot and friends."
FAA officials originally said the pilot was bound for Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, Illinois but later said the pilot amended his flight plan to Ohio State University Airport shortly before taking off.
The plane went down about a quarter-mile from its departing runway at 2:42 a.m., into a house near West 65th Street and South Knox Avenue. It crashed through the front of the building, through the living and dining rooms and into the basement, fire officials said.
Part of the plane came to rest on the roof of a home to the south of the heavily-damaged home. Two homes near the site of the crash were evacuated for precaution.
"It's amazing looking at it, that [the homeowners] lived through something like that," said neighbor John Richerme.
Officials worked through the morning to stabilize the home so the process of removing the aircraft could start. National Transportation Safety Board Air Safety Investigator Tim Sorensen said he expected that to begin during the afternoon hours.
He said the condition of the aircraft indicates where was no in-flight structural failure.
"The aircraft is obviously certainly damaged, but the air frame is more or less in-tact," he said.
Jocelyn Mejia, 24, who lives down the block from the crash, said she went outside to see what happened after hearing the sound of a plane and then a loud boom.
Responding firefighters found the wreckage but did not have to deal with an intense fire. Fox said there was some leaking fuel but it didn't reach an ignition source. Firefighters sprayed a layer of foam on the fuel to prevent a fire, he said.
The twin, piston-engine airplane, with a tail number of N30MB, was registered to Central Airlines Inc. out of Fairway, Kansas.
A dispatcher with the company said "we are cooperating with the investigation into the Chicago plane crash."