Victims IDed in Sugar Grove Plane Crash

Fireball reported at scene of crash

Two men killed when their small plane crashed near Waubonsee Community College in west suburban Sugar Grove have been identified.

At a late Sunday morning news conference, police identified the victims as 32-year-old Drago Strahija, of Lake Worth, Fla., and 37-year-old Gary Bradford, of Hollywood, Fla.  Bradford was piloting the plane, a Kane County Sheriff's Department spokesman said.

The two men were on a personal trip and stayed overnight Thursday in Aurora, said Kane County Sheriff’s Lt. Pat Gengler.

The crash was so violent, it sent debris flying into a nearby home, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Sheriff's deputies said the initial calls to 9-1-1 reported a "fireball" at the scene of the crash.  There was some fog in the area, but no one is speculating if weather was to blame.

Two adults and two children were inside the home at the time, but no one on the ground was hurt, officials said. Cathy Doyle confirmed it was her family that was displaced after the plane crashed near their house on Old Oaks Road. She said no one was hurt in the house, including two older children, but declined to comment further. 

The crash caused a fire in the home's garage, but crews were able to quickly put it out before it caused too much damage to the home.

The impact downed power lines, and completely destroyed the twin-engine Piper Aerostar.  Yellow police tape outlined a large area near the home, but only a few small pieces of debris were visible.  When asked why there didn't seem to be more of the plane left intact, an NTSB official said simply, "that tells me it was a high-velocity impact."

The plane went down about 8 minutes after leaving the Aurora Municipal Airport -- about two miles away -- on Saturday night, Gengler said. The plane left the Aurora airport at 6:52 p.m., headed to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Denver, the Naperville Sun is reporting. The plane had arrived in Aurora on Friday from Addison Airport in Dallas, according to flight records. Before that, the plane had been to several locations in Texas, including El Paso International Airport, in recent days.

The aircraft was registered to a Hollywood, Fla., based coporation called ENS Corp.,  according to an FAA Web registry.

Strahija identified himself as an employee of the corporation, described on its Web site as an IT company specializing in network development, the Sun-Times confirmed by checking corporate voicemail.

The plane was manufactured in 1974, according to the FAA registry.

A Sugar Grove resident who lives about ½ mile from the crash site said he heard the plane fly low over his house, and that the plane sounded like it was having engine problems, according to the Tribune.

National Transportation Safety Board officials and the FAA are investigating the crash.  NTSB officials said the wreckage was still on the scene of the crash Sunday, but their goal was to get it moved to a secure location by the end of the day.

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