JOLIET – The pilot of the plane that crashed Thursday into a Brighton Lakes subdivision in Joliet was from Lake Worth, Florida.
The pilot was identified Friday as Garry Thomas Bernardo by the Will County Coroner's Office. The coroner's office said it used fingerprint comparison to confirm the identity; officials said on Thursday that the remains were in a condition that could not be identified and it might take some time to positively identify the pilot.
Bernardo, 58, was pronounced dead at 2:58 p.m. Thursday at Bedford Drive and Hampton Court. Officials believe the pilot was the only person in the plane at the time of the crash.
An autopsy performed Friday found the preliminary cause of death to be multiple injuries due to airplane mishap, according to the coroner's office.
Authorities said parts of the plane were located as far as a mile away from where it crashed, suggesting it may have been coming apart before it hit the ground at 11:14 a.m., leaving the aircraft decimated.
Terry Williams, a spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board, said Friday afternoon that the incident investigation is still in the fact-gathering stage. It is standard procedure to look at the pilot’s records and logbooks, the plane’s maintenance and modification records, the weather at the time and more.
Williams said it is too early to say if weather played a factor in the crash. It had just rained in the Joliet area prior to the incident.
The NTSB gathered witness accounts of the crash from Joliet police, Williams said.
The Joliet Police Department is asking residents who locate debris from the plane crash to bring it to the Police Command Post, which is located at Chestnut Hill and Bedford, according to a post on the department's Facebook page.
The Command post will be stationed there until the end of Friday. Anyone who finds debris after Friday should call 815-726-2491 and an officer will be dispatched to recover the debris.
The remnants of the plane where it crashed were in the process of being moved out of Brighton Lakes on Friday. Investigators will move the plane to a secure location soon to examine the engines and how the plane was maintained, according to the NTSB.
Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said at 1 p.m. Friday officials are hoping to clear Bedford Drive by the end of the day.
An aircraft recovery team was gathering wreckage onto a flatbed trailer Friday. Benton said NTSB usually works with the team to piece the plane together. They then looking at flight tracking and any possible communication with traffic controllers.
Joliet Deputy Fire Chief Ray Randich said an insurance adjuster from the pilot’s insurance company also was on the scene Friday.
Randich also said a company representative from Piper Aircraft was checking out the wreckage. Joliet City Manager Jim Hock said Friday morning the aircraft was built in 1963.
The crash also caused a house at 1812 Hampton Court to catch on fire, leaving it charred but the homeowners and their pets alive. Public property records show the house is owned by Richard and Patricia Daniel.
Randich said Thursday that crews arriving at the scene were met outside by the homeowner. Officials believe the fuel tanks ruptured when the plane came down, spilling fuel and gas out onto the street and toward the house, allowing flames to scale the side of the two-story home, which is in Joliet but has a Plainfield address. The plane was on the south side of the street and the house that ignited was across to the north.
Florida state records show Bernardo has owned American Jewelry and Gun, a pawn shop in suburban West Palm Beach, for three years. An employee at the store declined Friday to comment.
Ed Malinowski with the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was a Piper PA-30, The Associated Press reported. It had taken off from Florida and landed in Tennessee before taking off again to head toward Wisconsin.
Ben Cody, a lineman at Upper Cumberland Regional Airport in Sparta, Tenn., said Bernardo's airplane landed at 8:59 a.m. Thursday and went to a self-service fueling area.
"None of us actually fueled the plane," Cody said.
He didn't know of anyone who may have interacted with Bernardo.
• The Herald-News is collaborating with the Palm Beach Post in the reporting of this story.