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NTSB: Pilot Passed Two Airports Before Crash That Killed Four

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(Photo provided by Matt Berg)

(Photo provided by Matt Berg)

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CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (STMW) – A pilot passed up two chances to land at suburban airports — because he didn’t want to get stranded — just minutes before crashing near Crystal Lake last month, killing his two daughters and one of the girls’ boyfriends.

Central Indiana businessman Ray Harris was flying his daughter Ramie back to Wheaton College on Nov. 26 when the single-engine plane crashed.

Killed in the crash were Harris, 46; his daughters Ramie, 21, and Shey, 20; and Shey’s boyfriend, Chris Backus, 22, of Eau Claire, Wis.

Ray Harris was headed to DuPage Airport in West Chicago but “inadvertently flew over the airport,” according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

He reversed course in an attempt to return to the airport but lost sight of it. He told a controller he was not sure if he wanted to land there because he did not want to “get in there and get stuck all day” due to the weather.

Weather conditions at the airport included overcast clouds at 900 feet above ground level, 1-3/4 miles visibility in light rain and mist, the report said.

After missing the airport, the controller told Ray Harris to try to land at Chicago Executive Airport which required “visual flight rules conditions.”

Harris told the controller that the flight was “in and out of the clouds right now.” And when the controller asked if he was qualified for instrument flight rules (IFR), he said he was in training and “I’ve let this get around me.”

About 10:12 a.m., the pilot told a controller he would head to the Chicago Executive Airport but later told them he was no longer heading there. He commented that he didn’t want to “mess with the weather” and didn’t want to “get stuck in here,” the report said.

That was the last the controller heard before the crash.

The plane hit a tree and an open agricultural field about four miles north-northwest of Lake in the Hills Airport about 10:30 a.m. Tree limbs were found broken all over the area and the debris field was about 400 feet long.

All that was left of the plane was the fuselage, right wing and horizontal stabilizer. The engine and propeller had separated from the frame and were found north of the wreckage, the report said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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