MACOUPIN COUNTY — Four fraternity brothers in their 30s were killed when a small plane crashed Sunday in Macoupin County, shortly after taking off from the Creve Coeur area, authorities said.
The victims were pronounced dead at the scene at 4:27 p.m. in rural Carlinville. County Coroner Brad Targhetta told the Post-Dispatch that the men had left Creve Coeur Airport at 3:20 p.m. Sunday and were on their way to Michigan.
The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Macoupin County sheriff’s office. Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the FAA, said the plane crashed “under unknown circumstances” and was destroyed on impact.
The victims were identified Monday as pilot Joshua Daniel Sweers, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, and passengers Daniel A. Shedd, 37, of St. Charles, Daniel Schlosser, 39, of Michigan, and John S. Camilleri, 39, of New York.
The four men were in a Piper Cherokee PA 28-235 fixed wing, single-engine aircraft, a four-seater. Its registered owner, Cleared for Takeoff LLC, is in Lansing, Michigan, according to an FAA website.
Shedd worked for the Defense Contract Management Agency at Boeing, where he was an engineer. All four of the men were engineering graduates from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. They had all belonged to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
Shedd’s father, Charles Shedd of Chesterfield, said his son grew up in Chesterfield and graduated from Parkway Central High School.
“He was a great guy,” he said Monday. “All four of them were great guys.”
Dan Shedd was an avid motorcyclist and had lent one of his BMW motorcycles to Sweers for a year. Sweers, Schlosser and Camilleri flew down to see Dan Shedd on Friday and they all spent the weekend at his home in St. Charles before heading to the airport on Sunday. Charles Shedd said his son planned to fly to Michigan, retrieve his motorcycle from Sweers’ home and ride it back home to St. Charles on Monday, his mother’s birthday.
Charles Shedd said he drove the four men to the airport Sunday. “They were in great spirits,” he said. “They were happy. The weather was great.”
They were on a “gorgeous, well-maintained 1964 plane that just passed annual inspection. Josh was proud of it,” Charles Shedd said. Dan Shedd texted a photograph of the four friends, all smiles, moments before takeoff.
Charles Shedd said he tried tracking his son’s flight via an iPhone app along the route, just as his son had done to watch his friends’ approaching flight two days earlier. Shedd said through tears that he was having trouble finding a location. He texted his son but he didn’t reply. He waited until the plane should have landed in Michigan and tried calling his son. He didn’t answer, which was unusual, Shedd said.
So he typed the plane’s tail number into Google.
“I ran across amazing information,” Shedd said. Updated every 15 seconds or so, the website tracked the plane’s air speed, altitude, rate of climb and other details. “I saw for a half hour they climbed at various rates, and then they basically dived into the ground,” Shedd said.
He saw a media alert about a plane crash near Carlinville, and then he and his wife talked to police who confirmed it.
Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl said several people reported the crash to 911 dispatchers about 3:45 p.m. Sunday. Deputies found the crash site on a private farm near Wonderland Ranch Drive, about 2.5 miles south of Carlinville. The plane went down near a residence on the farm but no one on the ground was hurt, Kahl said.
“Several people saw it and heard it,” Kahl said. “Witnesses heard a noise of some sort but they don’t know what it was. As far as what transpired in the air, I wouldn’t even begin to speculate on that.”
Julie Leefers’ family owns the farm where the plane went down. She said she heard the crash and called 911. She said it was about 100 yards from her residence.
The sheriff said weather wasn’t a factor. It was sunny and in the 70s. The cause of the wreck hasn’t been released by authorities.
The manager of Creve Coeur Airport, Bob Cameron, said he didn’t recognize the plane’s tail number and that the plane wasn’t based there. He said the airport does not have a control tower. He said pilots don’t file a manifest listing who is on board. They also don’t file a flight plan with the airport. Cameron said he didn’t know if the pilot put out a “mayday” call before crashing.
The FAA hasn’t commented on any distress calls and referred that question to the NTSB. A representative with that agency said he had no information about distress calls.