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14 die as planes collide on runway

Published Nov. 20, 1996|Updated Sep. 17, 2005

A United Express plane and a private plane collided on a runway in a fiery accident Tuesday night that killed 14 people.

The commercial aircraft from Chicago, which carried 10 passengers and two crew members, was landing about 6 p.m. at Baldwin Municipal Airport outside Quincy after a scheduled stop in Burlington, Iowa.

The private plane, with only a pilot and co-pilot aboard, was taking off for a return trip to St. Louis and, according to witnesses, crashed into the United Express plane. There were no survivors, authorities said.

"I saw the King Air (private plane) crash into the side of the larger plane and both exploded into a ball of flames," said Mike Coultas, a Quincy resident and private pilot who was driving into the airport when the accident occurred.

"There were some secondary explosions, and flames were probably 60 to 70 feet into the air with huge black clouds. There was no way any of the passengers could have gotten out."

Bruce Chandler, a part-time maintenance worker at the airport, rushed toward the planes as soon as he saw the flames.

"I ran as fast as I could to see if I could get anybody out," he said. "I could hear people inside screaming and yelling, and that's when both tanks exploded."

David Smith, manager at Baldwin, said three of the passengers on United Express Flight 5925 were from Chicago. Six other passengers, all of whom boarded in Burlington, were headed to Chicago, Smith said.

The names of victims were being withheld pending confirmation and notification of relatives and survivors.

Smith said there is no traffic control tower at the field and pilots talk by radio. He said he did not know whether the pilots of the two planes had communicated with each other.

Air traffic at the Quincy airport, 10 miles from the Mississippi River and about 100 miles northwest of St. Louis, depends on visual landings and takeoffs. The obsolete control tower at the airport has not been used for some time.

Adams County sheriff's department officials sealed off the area late Tuesday to await the arrival of a National Transportation Safety Board team, scheduled to arrive from Washington early today to canvass the scene and prepare a report on the reasons for the crash.

It was the first fatal crash at the airport in at least six years, sheriff's department officials said.

According to United Airlines spokesmen, the airplane was a Beech 1900 with a seating capacity of 19, making a regular run between Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, before returning to Chicago. The airplane was operated by Great Lakes Aviation, a regional airline based in Bloomington, Minn., which contracts with United in operation of the United Express commuter service between smaller Midwest cities.

The United Airlines 800 number for relatives seeking information on victims of the crash is (800) 932-8555.

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