AKRON, OH (WOIO) - A small jet crashed into a four-family apartment complex Tuesday in Akron, going down in a plume of black smoke and setting the apartments on fire, Ohio State Highway Patrol officials said. Nine people were on board and there were no survivors.
Seven of the people who died in the crash worked for Pebb Enterprises in Florida.
The company posted the following statement on its website:
Our hearts are broken this morning with the news of the tragic accident that took the lives of two principals and five employees of Pebb Enterprises. We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished. Our first priority is to give our fullest support to the family members and loved ones of our co-workers.
Wednesday morning a Newark, Ohio, woman told Cleveland 19 that she feared her sister was a passenger on the plane and died when it crashed.
Jeannie Ferrara and other family members said Diane Smoot, 50, worked for Pebb Enterprises, a real estate company out of Boca Raton, Fla. She said her sister was traveling with company executives and they were searching for real estate development sites to purchase.
Ferrara said she had not received confirmation from any official, but said her nephew, who is in the military stationed in Guam, was notified and he was headed back to the U.S.
The victims were on board a 1979 Hawker H25 twin-engine business jet when it crashed into a four family apartment complex at 2:53 p.m. Officials said no one was in the apartments at the time of the crash.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration are at the scene, 3042 Mogadore Road in the city of Akron. The National Transportation Safety Board will examine the cause of the wreck with FAA support.
"I can tell you that they were very well seasoned pilots, both of them. They like to fly together," said ExecuFlight CEO Augusto Lewkowicz. ExecuFlight is the company that leased the jet.
Pilot Andres Chavez lived in Miami. He was described by his childhood best friend as a happy person who loved to fly. It was his dream since he was a child.
Chavez began his career in Columbia, South America, then moved to the U.S. to fulfill his passion. Chavez was the father of a five-year-old son.
His best friend spoke to him minutes before the flight from Dayton to Akron, later learning about the tragedy on Facebook.
Dianne Smoot was also on the plane. Her sisters drove from Norwalk to confirm their worst fears.
"It's panic. Absolute sheer panic," said sister Jeannie Ferrara.
Smoot was a mother to twins.
Her sisters shared what would be their final texts with Dianne. They were messages about the business trip she was on with six other executives from Pebb Enterprises.
"They were up here doing business, looking at properties and she was very excited because it was the first trip she made with the executives," Ferrara said.
Investigators have yet to officially release the names of the victims, but Cleveland 19 has also learned about executive Thomas Virgin, who recently had a baby girl.
His wife's Facebook page reflects the sadness in this tragedy with the post "I miss you. What I would give to have you back."
There is unofficial confirmation from a business partner regarding Ian Weiner, also believed to have been on board the flight.
His brother Jared also found on Facebook. His wife's Facebook page is filled with posts from people reaching out during this difficult time.