Case students killed in plane crash were sightseeing

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WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio -- The Ohio State Highway Patrol confirmed to Fox 8 News that all four victims of a Willoughby Hills plane crash were students at Case Western Reserve University.

The pilot was identified as William Michael Felten, 19, of Saginaw, Michigan.

The passengers were Lucas Vincent Marcelli, 20, of Massillon, Ohio; Abraham Pishevar, 18, of Rockville, Maryland; and John Hill, 18, of St. Simons, Georgia.

The 1999 Cessna crashed shortly after takeoff on Monday around 10 p.m. on Bishop Road just east of the Cuyahoga County Regional Airport.  It was the first day of school.

People were asked to avoid Bishop Road through Tuesday afternoon.

Scott Huth, the air traffic manager at the airport, said no flight plan was filed for the plane that crashed, which is common for local flights. The pilot reported this was to be a brief, local sightseeing trip and he planned to land at the Cuyahoga County airport.

Huth also said the airport has 100-300 flights per day.

The aircraft belonged to a flying club that rents planes and trains pilots.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator at the scene of the crash Tuesday said the pilot reported the plane was having trouble after takeoff and requested a return to the airport.

He began turning around when the plane crashed.

The investigator said Felten got his license about a year ago, but that does not indicate his experience level.

Case Western Reserve University released a statement Tuesday that said:

State police have released the names of the four young men who died in last night’s plane crash. They are second-year students William Michael Felten, 20, of Saginaw, Michigan, and Lucas Marcelli, 20, of Massillon, Ohio. Also on board the plane were first-year students John Hill, 18, of St. Simons, Georgia, and Abraham Pishevar, 18, of, Rockville, Maryland.

Three of the four—Marcelli, Pishevar and Hill—were members of the university’s varsity wrestling team. Felton and Marcelli also were active in Greek Life on campus.

“We are truly heartbroken about these promising lives cut short,” President Barbara R. Snyder said, “and feel profound sympathy for their loved ones and friends.”

Officials are still investigating the details of the crash; investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive at the scene this afternoon. The plane, a 1999 Cessna, reportedly crashed just outside the Cuyahoga County about 10 o’clock Monday night. Identification of the victims was delayed because the plane caught on fire upon impact.

Counseling and student affairs staff are working closely with the undergraduates’ roommates and friend to provide support and guidance. The University Counseling office is accepting walk-ins all day.

 

The university offered condolences at a news conference Tuesday as well.

 

Neighbors described what they heard and saw as the plane crashed.

“I came out and flames were shooting out pretty high.  I can’t tell you how high. But you could smell the fuel in the air and then all the squad cars starting coming,” Mary Brenner, who lives near the crash scene, said.  “It was like it instantly hit and we were out here.”

“I heard the plane crash,” Austin Evans, another neighbor, said.  “It was just like a big boom.  I live right across the street.  Moments later you just smelled the jet fuel and stuff like that. It was just crazy.”

Mark Gerald said he heard a sputtering sound and ran out of his house seconds after the crash.

“By the time I got maybe within twenty feet of it, that was maybe as close as I could, the flames were too intense, the heat was just very, very hot and fuselage was completely consumed,” he said.

Ruzanna Tovmasyan also heard something that sounded like engine trouble.

“It was the sound of a propeller, the engine was like something was wrong.  Something was wrong with the plane.  You could hear it,” she said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Click here for extended coverage on the plane crash in Willoughby Hills.