'It was close,' but pilot's skills before plane crash around Hanover Park may have saved lives

  • The wreckage of a RV7 airplane that landed in a field near a Hanover Park neighborhood sits on a flatbed Saturday.

    The wreckage of a RV7 airplane that landed in a field near a Hanover Park neighborhood sits on a flatbed Saturday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • From left, neighbors Jane and Bill Wogelius and the Torres family with son Christian watch as the wreckage of a plane is hauled away from their Hanover Park neighborhood.

    From left, neighbors Jane and Bill Wogelius and the Torres family with son Christian watch as the wreckage of a plane is hauled away from their Hanover Park neighborhood. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • Workers on Saturday secure the wreckage of a RV7 airplane that crash-landed in a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District field Friday.

    Workers on Saturday secure the wreckage of a RV7 airplane that crash-landed in a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District field Friday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • Police from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on Saturday morning guard the entrance to the district property along Walnut Avenue in Hanover Park, where a small plane went down on Friday night.

    Police from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on Saturday morning guard the entrance to the district property along Walnut Avenue in Hanover Park, where a small plane went down on Friday night. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/20/2018 8:54 AM

As they gazed at the mangled wings and crumpled propeller of a single-engine airplane that crashed near their Hanover Park homes, Longmeadow Lane residents considered themselves and the pilot lucky Saturday.

"It was close," Krista Torres said.

 

The two-seater RV7 airplane crash-landed at 9:18 p.m. Friday in a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District field alongside Walnut Avenue, northwest of the Schaumburg Airport. The pilot suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and was taken to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. There were no passengers.

The FAA is investigating. The airplane is registered to Robert Wiemuth of Terre Haute, Indiana, but it's not known if he was flying the plane. FAA records show a Robert Wiemuth who is an American Airlines pilot, but authorities could not confirm if it was the same person.

If so, it could explain how the airplane landed at nighttime, without being demolished or catching on fire, and in a grassy area away from homes.

"The skills of the pilot saved his life as well as those that could have been in harm's way," said Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig, a former FAA manager.

Residents didn't recall hearing any impact, but the noise of emergency sirens drew them out onto the normally quiet street to see fire trucks, police cars and media trucks.

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"It was Grand Central Station," said Jane Wogelius, who lives on Longmeadow Lane. Because of the proximity to Schaumburg Airport, she and her husband, Bill, are accustomed to small aircraft flying overhead. "We never gave them a second thought," she said.

"We were pretty lucky when you think about what could have been."

John Haslett, whose house on Walnut Avenue looks out on the water district property and is west of Schaumburg airport, said he was thankful the aircraft didn't explode.

"I am in the front row if anything happens. ... I prefer to be in the second row," he said jokingly. But "I've been here since 1985 -- it's one of the few times I've ever had a plane crash around here. It's pretty rare."

A flatbed tow truck took the plane and pieces of the wings away Saturday afternoon as neighbors watched with serious faces -- except for the youngest spectators.

"Mommy, next time a plane crashes, can you wake me up?" asked 5-year-old Christian, Torres' son.

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