Newly released 911 tapes suggest that when a call came in early Tuesday, stating that a plane had crashed into a home near Midway Airport, somewhat incredulous–sounding operators took it with a grain of salt.
Caller: “Hi, there’s an airplane that just crashed in front of my house."
Dispatch: “You say there’s a what?”
Caller: “An airplane just crashed in front of my house."
The aircraft, an Aero Commander 500B, had just taken off from Midway, en route to Columbus, Ohio. But shortly after takeoff, the pilot radioed that he was having engine trouble and wanted to return. He was cleared for any runway, but crashed into a house, just short of the field, in the 6500 block of South Knox Avenue.
After the call is taken by a 911 operator at about 2:43 a.m., it is transferred to the fire department.
“Hi, how’s it going?” the caller asks. “There’s an airplane that crashed in front of my house."
“A WHAT in your house?” the operator asks.
“An airplane crashed across the street in front of our house," the caller said.
“An airplane crashed across the street in front of your house?” the operator said.
“Yes,” the caller affirms.
“OK..." the operator says. “Well, what’s the address?”
The caller explains his location.
“You’re saying an airplane has crashed?”
“Yes,” the caller repeats.
“OK,” the operator says, still expressing some disbelief.
The pilot, 47-year-old Eric Howlett, was pronounced dead at the scene. Miraculously, the two occupants of the home escaped injury.
A full investigation, by the National Transportation Safety Board, is expected to take at least a year.