Seven From Family-Run Real Estate Firm Die in Ohio Jet Crash

  • No survivors reported as jet crashes into apartment building
  • Jet said to be carrying executives for Pebb Enterprises

Seven employees of a Florida real estate company were among the nine people killed Tuesday when a 10-seat business jet crashed into an apartment building in Akron, Ohio.

Pebb Enterprises said on its website that two principals and five other employees of the firm died in the crash of the twin-engine jet. It didn’t identify them, but the Associated Press, citing family members, said one was Diane Smoot, 50. The Pebb website says she was the director of lease administration and property accounting.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished,” the company said in the statement.

It was the latest tragedy to strike a high-end business aircraft piloted by professional crews. Since 2000, there have been five times more fatal accidents on these privately operated and chartered flights compared to passenger airlines, according to a Bloomberg News examination of accident records.

Poor Visibility

Visibility at nearby Akron Fulton International Airport was poor at the time of the accident, requiring arriving flights to use instruments to guide them to the runway, according to U.S. National Weather Service data.

“Weather, in fact, is one of the key areas that we’ll be looking at very carefully in this accident,” National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said at a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

NTSB has interviewed a pilot who arrived shortly before the Hawker 125-700A attempted to land, Dinh-Zarr said. While she declined to characterize what the pilot said about weather and other conditions, Dinh-Zarr said the other pilot didn’t report hearing any distress calls on a radio frequency pilots use to communicate near the airport.

The plane was was carrying nine people, including two pilots, when it crashed Tuesday at about 2:53 p.m., Ohio Highway Patrol Staff Lieutenant Bill Haymaker said at an earlier press conference Wednesday. There were no survivors, Haymaker said.

The Boca Raton-based Pebb Enterprises is described on its website as a full-service private equity real estate investment company specializing in commercial properties. It was founded in 1972 and is family owned and operated.

Monday Takeoff

The plane took off Monday from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and made five stops before leaving Dayton’s airport for Akron, according to Dinh-Zarr. The aircraft crashed 36 minutes after take off, about four miles from its destination. Nobody on the ground was hurt.

A surveillance video reviewed by the NTSB showed the plane flying at a low altitude banking to its left moments before the crash, she said. The left wing hit the ground first, leaving marks, before the plane struck a four-family apartment building and continued into an embankment, she said.

Families of the victims have been notified, Haymaker said. Authorities aren’t ready to identify the passengers and crew, Lisa Kohler, Summit County’s medical examiner, said. A special forensic medical team was assisting local authorities in identifying the bodies, Kohler said.

The family of at least one victim had arrived in Akron and others were expected, Haymaker said.

While there’s nothing inherently dangerous about small aircraft used by businesses, government oversight is far less strict than with the commercial airlines. Pilots have skipped rudimentary safety checks, worked days so long that they test human endurance, and overlooked routine hazards such as ice on the wings, Bloomberg found in its review of accident data.

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