JOLIET – A plane crashed late Thursday morning on a residential street in Joliet, igniting a fire that destroyed much of a nearby two-story residence.
Parts of the plane were located as far as a mile away, suggesting it may have been coming apart before it hit the ground.
Ed Malinowski with the NTSB says the plane was a Piper PA-30, according to the Associated Press. It had taken off from Florida, landed in Tennessee before taking off again and was headed for Wisconsin.
Joliet City Manager Jim Hock said the pilot died in the crash, and the remains were in a condition that could not be identified. Hock said he expected a statement from the coroner on Friday.
He also said investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were "out there and said there was only the pilot in the plane."
The crash occurred at 11:14 a.m. at 1812 Hampton Court, according to the Joliet Fire Department. The home is in Joliet but has a Plainfield address, and is under the jurisdiction of the Joliet fire and police departments.
"Parts of the plane hit the ground a mile away," Hock said. "Something happened a ways before it crashed."
A large piece of wreckage was found about a mile from the scene in the 1400 block of Broadlawn Drive, not far from an area Wal-Mart, according to fire department Battalion Chief John Stachelski.
Joliet Deputy Fire Chief Ray Randich said during a news conference early Thursday afternoon that crews arriving at the scene were met outside by the homeowner. He said officials believed she had just returned to the home and was outside when the plane crashed, but noted the investigation is still in its early stages.
Randich said officials believe the fuel tanks ruptured when the plane came down and the fuel spilled out onto the street and toward the house. The plane was on the south side of the street and the house that ignited was across to the north.
The ignition source is unknown at this point, he said.
"We are very fortunate to have a plane crash in a crowded residential neighborhood like this and not have any additional injuries," Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said. "It’s amazing."
Benton noted the incident is still under investigation and local officials will work with the FAA.
The plane did not leave the Joliet Regional Airport, said Airport Manager Jennifer McFarland.
"From our staff accounts we know he was not here," McFarland said.
McFarland said she would not know if the plane was headed to the Joliet airfield because it is an uncontrolled airport and does not get advance notice of incoming planes.
The FAA has sent a team to the crash site to determine the type of aircraft and to begin an investigation, the federal agency said in an emailed statement.
"The FAA will gather information and pass it to the [National Transportation Safety Board], which is the agency that will lead the investigation and will determine the probably cause of the accident," the FAA said in the statement. "Any additional information needs to come from the NTSB."
The remains of the plane were seen smoldering in the street, and area residents were seen using garden hoses near the wreckage immediately following the crash.
Pat Crotty said she was in her yard at Bedford Drive and Brighton Lane, about a block away, doing yard work when she saw the plane spiraling out of control. It happened so fast she wasn't able to tell what kind of plane it was.
Crotty said the plane made an "unearthly" sound when it crashed into the ground and that debris from the plane exploded upon impact. She believes the debris collided with the house, and that is what caused it to catch fire.
Crotty said she ran down the street barefoot after the crash, knocking on people's doors to get them out of their houses. She said she also told people to clear the street so emergency crews could get there.
Ann Zigrossi lives in the Hampton Glen subdivision, across Theodore Street from the subdivision where the incident occurred. When she heard the crash, not long after it had been raining, she thought it was thunder.
"I just thought, rain – thunder," she said.
Multiple fire engines and ambulances responded to the crash site, and at one point people on the scene said they have been pushed back, with authorities saying they were unsure if there was a gas leak.
The Joliet Police Department asked motorists to avoid the area of the crash.
“At approximately 11:15, a small plane went down in the area of Theodore and Brighton. Please seek alternative routes near Rt. 59 and Theodore, and Theodore and River Rd while the crash is investigated,” the department stated in a posting on its Facebook page.
Joliet Police have been asked to secure the scene throughout tomorrow as the NTSB investigation continued, Benton said later Thursday afternoon. He noted the investigation can be a drawn-out process, and take up to a year to conclude what happened.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
• Herald-News Senior Reporter Bob Okon and Digital Editor Anna Schier contributed to this story.