Pilots of two planes that crashed in separate incidents Sunday killing at least 28 may have deliberately steered their aircraft away from buildings to avoid more injuries, witnesses said.
All 25 aboard a United Airlines Boeing 737 died Sunday when the jetliner crashed near Colorado Springs municipal airport, scraping the top of an apartment building before slamming into a dried lake.A witness said the pilot appeared to have been trying to avoid the buildings.
Near Chicago, the pilot of a small Navy jet swerved to avoid a cluster of houses but crashed into a quiet suburban street near Glenview Naval Air Station, killing himself and two crew members.
In the Colorado Springs crash, near the community of Widefield, witnesses said it was a miracle that the only person injured on the ground was a small girl playing nearby who was hospitalized for treatment of ear injuries.
Witnesses said the plane flipped over in the air several times before it crashed.
United Flight 585 originated in Peoria, Ill., stopped in Denver and was on final approach to the airport in Colorado Springs when the aircraft went down. A spokesman for the airline said 20 passengers and five crew members were on board.
Among the dead were two employees of the U.S. Olympic Committee and a coach with the U.S. Cycling Federation.
USOC officials said the three men were: Dr. Peter J. Van Handel, 45, a USOC senior sports physiologist; Dr. Andrzej J. Komor, 39, a USOC sports biochemist; and Dan Birkholtz, age unknown, a development coach and coordinator with the U.S. Cycling Federation.
In the other crash, witnesses said the plane took a last-second nosedive to avoid hitting houses and crashed into the street, strewing parts and flames in nearby front yards. It came to rest against a tree 20 feet in front of several houses.
"It looked like he took a nose dive because he didn't want to hit any houses," one witness said.
"He like threaded a needle," said another witness.
A Navy official said there were no injuries on the ground.
"We're extremely grateful there appear to be no civilian casualties," a Navy official said.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the plane was a twin-jet T-39 that was on approach to the base located northwest of Chicago.
The plane broke up and burned on impact, slightly damaging some nearby houses.
A Federal Aviation Administration accident investigation team was sent to Colorado to investigate the United crash.
Some officials attributed it to wind shear, a condition when wind forces an aircraft straight down during the critical moments of takeoff and landing.
A police spokesman said an aircraft that had landed moments before the crash reported difficulties with the high winds.