By MADELINE BUCKLEY - Follow me @Mabuckley88
South Bend Tribune
7:26 PM EDT, March 19, 2013
SOUTH BEND -- Bit by bit and piece by piece, crews on Tuesday removed all the wreckage of the plane from the houses it destroyed when it crashed on Sunday.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will fit all the pieces together in a secure hangar at the South Bend Regional Airport as part of the quest to learn what happened in the crash that killed two and injured three.
The pilots of the corporate jet, Wes Caves, 58, and Steve Davis, 60, died. Passengers Jim Rodgers and Christopher Evans were injured, as well as Diana McKeown, a resident in one of the houses struck by the plane. Rodgers was listed in serious condition at Memorial Hospital Tuesday while the other two are fair.
City officials say they are working to bring the stunned neighborhood in the 1600 block of Iowa Street -- just southeast of the airport -- back to some semblance of normal.
Crews trucked away large pieces of the plane after lifting them out of the homes on a crane throughout the day Tuesday.
During the cold, blustery day, workers sifted through the wreckage to find pieces of the aircraft, Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said.
"We've picked up almost every piece we can find," Corthier said.
By Tuesday afternoon, officials reopened Iowa Street and all residents except those in the three damaged houses could go home.
"Things are getting back to somewhat normal, as normal as they can considering the circumstances in this neighborhood," Corthier said.
The whole block was evacuated Sunday night after the crash, and eight residences, including the three damaged homes, were still evacuated Monday night.
The three-property perimeter that was the crash site remains fenced off and part of the NTSB investigation.
Corthier said the area will not be open for cleanup until the agency is sure it has all pieces of the plane.
Once NTSB clears the site, two of the three homes will be demolished, Corthier said.
Fire officials are talking with the owners of the two destroyed homes to discuss the next steps.
Crews have walked through the homes, collecting all salvageable belongings. The residents are not allowed in due to safety concerns.
Patricia Kobalski, owner of one of the destroyed homes, said Monday that she doubts many of her possessions can be saved.
A fund has been established at KeyBank in the name of Kobalski and her son, Dominic Lewis, 6. Donations can be made at any KeyBank location.
Despite the heavy damage to the home, which is where the plane came to rest, Kobalski and her son walked out unscathed.
Neighborhood residents seeking counseling or support services can call the office of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 574-235-9261.
NTSB, a federal agency that is leading the investigation, has said it will not speculate on the cause of the accident until the investigation is complete, which could take as long as a year for a full report.
Airport and Federal Aviation Administration officials said on Sunday that the pilots radioed about electrical problems.
Officials said the plane unsuccessfully tried to land twice, bumping to the ground and flying off again, before crashing.
An NTSB investigator said on Monday crews successfully recovered the black box voice recorder, which was in good condition.
Staff writer Madeline Buckley:
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