A small airplane transporting a medical patient to the Chicago area crashed in northwest suburban Riverwoods late Monday night, killing three of the five people on board, authorities said.

The crash came just after the pilot reported that the plane was having a fuel problem.

The multi-engine Piper Navajo ripped apart trees and barely missed a family home when it crashed in a wooded area near Portwine and Orange Brace Roads, just north of a Lake County Forest Preserve around 10:50 p.m.

The plane, owned by Trans North Aviation, was transporting the patient, his wife, two pilots and a flight paramedic to the Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, about five miles south of the crash site, according to Ron Schaberg, owner and president of the South Carolina company.

The 80-year-old male patient, who was among the dead, was being brought to a local medical facility for an undisclosed medical issue, Schaberg said.

The aircraft, which passed a safety inspection earlier that day, picked up the patient from West Palm Beach, Fla. just before 6 p.m., but made a fuel stop in Jesup, Ga. before continuing on to Chicago Executive, Schaberg said.

But the pilot told air traffic controllers at the airport just before the crash that the plane was having a fuel problem, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

Speaking at the scene with reporters this morning, police and fire officials said they encountered a small fire in the aircraft, where three survivors were trapped. One later died.

Authorities put out the small fire with a handheld fire extinguisher and worked to free the survivors, said Chief Fred Kruger, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District.

After freeing them, the survivor who later died, a man, was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Medical Center in Park Ridge. The two others were taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. They were expected to live. Two people were confirmed dead inside the wreckage, but authorities weren't releasing their identities.
Authorities covered the heavily-damaged aircraft with a blue tarp and moved back a number of neighbors and onlookers as they worked to remove two bodies from the wreckage.

A homeowner who said the plane crashed within feet of her home said she and her husband felt their house shake as the aircraft flew overhead. Next she heard an indescribable noise that she later found out was the sound of trees being ripped apart by the falling aircraft.

"It was like you could hear destruction," said the woman, who asked that her name be withheld.

Before she said she knew what happened, the homeowner said dozens of emergency vehicles descended on her normally quiet block.

"It's just unreal (having) a half-mile of emergency vehicles outside, it's mind-boggling. I feel sorry for the people (inside the plane)."

Schaberg said he didn't yet have confirmation on who was killed in the crash, but said he'd been in contact with the patient's son.

Schaberg expressed grief over the fatal crash, the first at his company that airlifts patients to hospitals in other states in more than 30 years, he said.

"I'm just very sorry," he said, his voice breaking. Schaberg said he planned to catch an early-morning flight to Chicago.
Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were heading to the scene, authorities said.

The deadly crash was the second to occur in the Chicago area since Saturday.