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Thu, Jul 31, 2008

Hawker 800 Down In Minnesota, Seven Reported Lost

Wind Storm Reported In Area Before Accident

At least seven people are reported lost following the Thursday morning crash of a Hawker 800 on landing at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport (OWA) in Minnesota.

FAA officials identified the flight as East Coast Jets 81, inbound from Atlantic City, NJ. The flight originated early Thursday morning from Lehigh Valley International Airport. East Coast Jets is a charter company with a fleet of 11 jets, including four Hawker 800s, according to its Web site.

Officials say seven people are confirmed dead, with two others missing. A 10th victim was taken to a nearby hospital, but their condition is unknown.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, an aircraft was reported off the runway at OWA at approximately 9:46 am, about 20 minutes after fierce winds came through the area, part of a strong band of thunderstorms that swept through southern Minnesota in the early morning hours.

Owatonna city engineer Jeff Johnson said he's not sure if the accident was connected to the "really bad" thunderstorm, however. "There were lots of trees down. There's a lot of damage," Johnson said. "We don't know if the plane went down in the windstorm and it didn't get reported until 10 to 10."

Cameron Smith, a mechanic and licensed inspector at local FBO Rare Aircraft, said he talked with the accident aircraft's pilot on UNICOM as the aircraft made a "standard approach" to land at OWA.

"It didn't sound like there was a problem whatsoever," Smith said. "He said they needed fuel and I told them where to park."

Smith said there was no post-impact fire. "I saw a wreck. It's a mess." Smith said. "You'll never forget it."

The passengers onboard the accident aircraft (ype shown above) were flying to Owatonna for a meeting at Viracon Inc., an Owatonna-based glass fabrication plant, according to a company spokeswoman.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.eastcoastjets.com/

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