The pilot of a small plane headed for Bolingbrook apparently tried to abort his landing at the last instance Wednesday, triggering a series of events leading to the fiery crash that killed both the pilot and his wife, authorities said Thursday.
Dr. Narayan Venguswamy, a longtime surgeon at the 75-bed Georgetown Community Hospital in Georgetown, Ky., and his wife, Jay, both died as a result of the crash in a bank parking lot near Clow International Airport.
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Cindy Wesley, an assistant administrator at Georgetown, said the surgeon, known to staff members as Dr. Vengu, has been at the hospital for 27 years.
"He was an extraordinary physician and outstanding surgeon who was passionate about the practice of medicine," hospital officials said in a statement. "Dr. Vengu was well-respected and beloved, particularly by his staff, his patients and his colleagues."
Bolingbrook police said the crash occurred around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at 262 S. Weber Road near a Chase bank. The plane crashed into a tree, a light pole and several vehicles near the bank at the corner of Weber Road and Lily Cache Lane.
Jay Venguswamy was pronounced dead at the crash scene. Narayan Venguswamy was taken first to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital and then to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood for burn treatment. The Cook County medical examiner's office said he died at 5:45 a.m. Thursday at Loyola.
James Toole, the airport manager at Scott County Marshall Field in Georgetown, said Dr. Venguswamy and his wife took off around 4:10 p.m. from the Kentucky airfield in a Cirrus SR-20 single-engine plane. Venguswamy was piloting the aircraft.
At the time of the crash, he was trying to land at Clow, officials said.
"They were very good people," Toole said. "I have known them for several years. It's a very sad day for us here."
He said the couple had at least two older children and were "very, very close."
Toole said Venguswamy, who owned the four-seat plane, loved flying and had experience piloting the aircraft.
Venguswamy's flight plan was to travel to the Bolingbrook airport. Toole said he believes the trip was part recreation and part business.
Joseph DePaulo, the manager of Clow, said Venguswamy aborted an attempted landing at the airport in the moments before the crash.
"He was coming in to land and then performed what is called a go-round," he said. "He just wasn't comfortable, apparently, with the way he was landing and then decided to go around and something happened."
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the crash. The NTSB is in charge of the probe.
During a brief Thursday night news conference, NTSB investigator Joshua Lindberg said the plane touched down and was moving on the runway when it took off again.
"Witnesses near the scene describe the airplane landing and then taking off again at the airport," Lindberg said. "After they took off, they made a left-hand turn, still at a low altitude."
Lindberg said investigators will look into whether Venguswamy ran out of space on the runway.
Eyewitnesses said the low-flying plane initially traveled east away from the airport. It then turned and started heading west back toward the airfield but lost altitude, collided with something and nose-dived.
George Steimer, owner of WineStyles, a store in a strip mall just south of the bank, said he heard the sound of a struggling engine. When he looked outside, Steimer saw the plane coming down fast and hit a light pole in the bank parking lot.
"When it was coming in, the wing hit the pole and then the plane tilted and just crashed," he said.
Several witnesses said they saw flames and heard small explosions when the plane crashed. The plane burned while surrounding cars caught fire.
Venguswamy was on fire when he emerged from the wreckage, according to witnesses. Mike Grohar, manager at Andy's Frozen Custard just north of the crash site, rushed outside to help him.
"He (Venguswamy) was actually walking on fire and kind of fell down to the ground," said Grohar, adding that two people put out the flames.
While he was on the ground, Venguswamy repeatedly asked the people helping him to save his wife.
"He just kept asking us to get his wife out of the plane," Grohar said. "I got as close as I could. The plane was engulfed in flames. I couldn't get any closer than where we were."
Grohar said people were forced to move away from the burning plane after there where two or three small explosions.
Lindberg said investigators still are in the early stages of examining what remains of the aircraft. The charred wreckage was being moved to a secure facility for further examination, he said.
"It (the investigation) does become somewhat more difficult because we have less airplane," Lindberg said. "But we can still get what we need from what was left of the scene today."
Authorities remained at the crash site on Thursday night. A spokeswoman for Chase said it's unknown when the bank will reopen.
In 2008, a small plane made a safe emergency landing along Weber Road, just south of where Wednesday's crash occurred.
DePaulo said he couldn't recall any crashes happening on the grounds of the airport, which averages 50,000 to 70,000 "operations" a year. An operation is a takeoff or a landing, he said.
"We've had a blown tire. Little things," he said. "Nothing as tragic as this."
• Daily Herald staff writers Jessica Cilella and Bob Smith contributed to this report.