The plane, a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza, was preparing to land at the airport just before 3 p.m. when it crashed at the BP gas station in the 100 block of Long Road Crossing Drive. The aircraft was flying from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Chesterfield, an airport spokesperson said.
An employee at the gas station reported the plane crashed in the business parking lot. An eyewitness said the plane was fully engulfed in flames.
The fire was extinguished and firefighters spread a grey tarp over the front portion of the aircraft. The pilot perished in the crash.
No one else was on board, according to the FAA.The radio transmission between the pilot and the tower indicated his plane was losing power.
Here’s part of that transmission:
Pilot: “Tower, ah, Spirit 6-7-9-echo-alpha has an issue. I’m losing my power”
Tower: “Okay, who called up losing power?”
Tower: “Roger. Runway 2-6-left you are clear to land”
Pilot: “I’m not sure I’m going to make it.”
Witnesses said they did not hear the engine of the plane as it started to drop, striking the metal canopy over the gas pumps and crashing into the ground. There was a small explosion and then flames appeared. Some witnesses tried to rescue the pilot, but the flames were too much.
“They were trying to get him out with fire extinguishers, trying to put out the flames out and then they tried to beat the front of a window with sledge hammer,” said eyewitness Joe Dragovich.
“I saw a guy with an ax just trying to break that window and it just went up in flames,” said Heather Sateia.
The crash was just feet from a tanker that was delivering fuel to the gas station.
“It could have hit cars. It could have killed people,” said Christos Stevens. “The gas truck is there filling up the gas station.”
Some witnesses believe it took too long for firefighters to respond. The Monarch Fire Protection District has a fire house near the scene of the crash, but the department reported that engine house was already out on a call when the call came in for the plane crash.
Monarch Fire Capt. Roger Herin said the department received a call for the plane crash at 2:55 p.m. and the first crew arrived at 3:01 p.m.
The plane was registered to a company in Las Vegas. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson offered condolences for the family of Jim Smith late Wednesday evening. Krewson said Smith was responsible for the redevelopment of the Chase Park Plaza.
Air traffic controllers temporarily closed Spirt of St. Louis Airport. The airport was reopened by 3:25 p.m.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the crash and will investigate.
Fox 2/KPLR 11 will have more information on this story as it becomes available.