Two Indiana firefighters were killed when the small plane they were in collided with another plane at the Marion Municipal Airport, according to the Madison County Emergency Management Agency.
The Federal Aviation Administration said around 5 p.m. Monday a Cessna 150 was taking off when it clipped the tail of a Cessna 525 Citation.
Two people on board the Cessna 150 died after the plane burst into flames. The pilot, 31-year-old Kyle M. Hibst of Elwood died in the fire. His passenger, David K. Wittkamper, 31, Elwood, was thrown from the aircraft after the collision, according to the Madison County EMA.
Hibst and Wittkamper were members of the Pipe Creek Township Fire Department.
An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday in Fort Wayne, but the results have yet to be released. Tuesday afternoon, several area fire departments escorted the bodies of Hibst and Wittkamper back to an Elwood funeral home.
A makeshift memorial popped up outside the fire station in Elwood.
The Cessna 150 they were operating is registered to Hibst, according to FAA records. The aircraft was built in 1958 and had been certified in February. FAA records show Hibst obtained his private pilot license in Oct. 2017.
Investigators said five people on board the Cessna 525C were not hurt.
The Citation is registered to Avis Industrial Corporation in Upland, Ind. The names of the people onboard the aircraft at the time of the crash have not been released.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash.
“THe jet was already landed and coming to a stop, if you will, and there was not enough rise for the Cessna and it clipped the tail end of the jet,” Marion Police Department Deputy Chief Stephan Dorsey told NewsChannel 15 Monday.
The Marion Municipal Airport does not have a control tower. Pilots are expected to communicate and announce their movements and intentions on a common frequency.
Investigators have not said if the pilots were communicating their intentions before the crash.
Federal regulations give priority to a landing aircraft.
The Madison County EMA released the following statement:
“The Pipe Creek Township Fire Department is saddened by the loss of two firefighters from their department tonight. Firefighters Kyle Hibst and David Wittkamper were killed when their plane crashed at Marion Airport in Marion, IN late this afternoon.
Kyle Hibst joined the fire department on 2/12/2011 and served as a firefighter and EMS Chief for the department. Kyle’s wife Kim Hibst is also a member of the fire department. Kyle is the father of one young boy.
David Wittkamper joined the fire department on 5/12/2007 and served as a firefighter. David’s father and grandfather were past members of the Pipe Creek Fire Department and David grew up with the firefighters as his family. David is married to Autumn Wittkamper.
Chief Richard Shepherd is saddened by the loss of these two great individuals who have given so much back to their family, community and this fire department. The members of the Pipe Creek Fire Department are all at a loss as they come together to help each other thru this difficult time. Chief Shepherd is grateful for the outpouring of support from the emergency services in Madison County. Please respect the privacy of our firefighters, and the families who have lost loved ones tonight.
Funeral arrangements are pending, and will be released later this week.”
Marion Municipal Airport is public aviation facility owned by the city of Marion and is located approximately four miles southwest of downtown Marion in Grant County. It’s home to approximately 50 aircraft and saw just under 10,000 operations in 2014, according to the most recently available airport data.
The airport has two asphalt runways, 04/22 and 15/33. Runway 04/22 is approximately 6,000 feet in length and runway 15/33 are approximately 3,400 feet in length.
The airport is also used by student pilots and has hosted high-speed auto racing. The airport offers fuel services, aircraft rental, maintenance, and a terminal.
According to a 2013 news release on the airport’s website, Marion Municipal Airport was responsible for more than $108 million in economic output and employed around 650 people. It was named airport of the year in 2014 by Aviation Indiana.