Plane crash kills Champaign family in Rantoul after takeoff

Three people died in a fiery crash after a single-engine airplane went down shortly after takeoff Sunday in central Illinois, authorities said.

The Piper PA 46 was carrying three people when it crashed at the Rantoul Airport about 125 miles southwest of Chicago, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig. He said the plane was destroyed by fire.

Authorities were notified of the crash before 10 a.m. Sunday.

“The plane had just taken off from the airport and was starting to gain altitude when it went down,” Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber told The News-Gazette in Champaign. “We have no further details on how it happened.”

Farber said severe weather was rolling into the area at the time of the crash. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.

The names of the victims may not be officially released until Monday. Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said it could be late in the day before he would be able to confirm the identities.

Friends told the newspaper that the victims are a Champaign family, a married couple and their teenage daughter.

Family friend Tom Fiedler said the family was headed to Florida where the daughter was to take part in a fitness camp. The father, a longtime pilot, was known to be cautious about flying in bad weather, Fiedler said. Airport manager Bill Clayton said the man kept his plane there.