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Four Dead, Five Missing After Plane Crashes At Wichita Airport

By Stan Finger, Tim Potter and Molly McMillin, The Wichita Eagle (MCT)

WICHITA, Kan. —  A twin-engine aircraft crashed on top of a building at Mid-Continent Airport just after take-off Thursday morning, killing at least four people and injuring at least five others, authorities said.

The plane struck the top of a FlightSafety International building and ignited a fire inside, Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell said. Only two of the fatalities are confirmed to be inside, authorities said.

Wichita police have asked relatives of workers at the building to come to a command post that has been set up.

Five people were transported to Via Christi St. Francis Hospital after the plane crashed shortly before 10 a.m., authorities said. As of noon, one patient was in serious condition, one in fair condition and three in good fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The pilot was the only one on board the plane, authorities said.

Firefighters engaged in “a horrific firefight for several minutes,” Blackwell said, before crews were pulled out due to concerns the building was unsafe from the fire and impact of the crash.

Five people remained unaccounted for late Thursday morning, Blackwell said, but it appears most of the people inside FlightSafety _ which routinely has 100 or more people working inside _ were able to escape to safety.

“The search operation is ongoing,” Blackwell aid. “We might find more” fatalities.

Crews were also trying to stabilize the building.

Law enforcement was talking to a group of about 60 people _ many of whom were wearing FlightSafety employee badges or shirts _ in a field north of the building in an apparent attempt to identify who was missing.

The roof of the building burst into flames upon the plane’s impact, according to a witness. The call came in to 911 at 9:49 a.m., dispatch said.

As of 11:15 a.m., the fire was not under control and crews were being pulled out of the building, Blackwell said. Crews were taking a defensive approach because of structure concerns, he added.

A Beechcraft King Air B200 crashed on the roof of the company’s north building, FlightSafety International spokesman Steve Phillips said.

FlightSafety is an international aviation training company owned by Berkshire Hathaway with corporate offices in New York City. It provides flight training and has several offices in Wichita.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft was taking off from the airport in Wichita just before 10 a.m. when it tried to return and instead hit a building. The flight was headed to Mena, Ark., according to FlightAware.

The aircraft was manufactured in 1999 and was owned by Beechcraft, according to an FAA report.

Commercial flights were halted for a short time to allow emergency responders to reach the scene of the crash, Wichita Deputy Police Chief John Speer said.

One witness, Brian Youngers, said he was across the street from the building talking to the manager of an avionics repair company at the time of the crash.

“We heard this ‘vroom,’ ” he said. “It was way too loud, way too close. We were like, ‘Holy crap.’ ”

By the time, they reached the back of the building it was already on fire, Youngers said.

Another witness, Lana Johnson, said she just stepped outside the post office, which is less than a half-mile north of the crash site, when she heard a sound.

“I’ve never heard a sound like that,” she said.

Johnson said it was a loud, muffled noise, as if someone had just dropped pots and pans.

She saw thick billowing smoke and soon heard sirens.

“It’s a sad sight,” Johnson said. “It’s sad to think that people were trapped in there.”

(Rick Plumlee, Tim Potter, Suzanne Tobias, Kelsey Ryan and Jerry Siebenmark of The Wichita Eagle contributed to this report.)

Photo: Smoke billows from a building at at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kan., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 shortly after a Beechcraft King Air B200 crashed into the building, killing several people, including the pilot. (Brian Corn/Wichita Eagle/MCT)