A father, his two daughters, and a family friend all died in the crash of a single engine Cirrus SR20 private aircraft, registration N223CD, on Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. CST, which violently went down nose first into a soybean field behind a farm house at 9309 Northwest Highway (Route 14) near North Ridgefield Road in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
The accident was reported on November 26-27 by the Aviation Safety Network, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, NBC-TV Chicago, The Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and other news sources.
Killed instantly were the pilot, 46-year-old Raymond Allen Harris of Marion, Indiana, who was flying his 21-year-old daughter Ramie back to Wheaton College after the Thanksgiving holiday, Ramie’s sister, Shey, and 22-year-old Chris Backus of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, one of the women’s boyfriends.
A red emergency parachute, a unique feature of the aircraft called the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), was found to be deployed trailing behind the downed plane, apparently as a result of the force of impact, rather than released by the pilot as the Cirrus was descending.
That sequence of events will be further investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which is looking into the crash, along with the FAA and local authorities.
For the CAPS to safely lower the aircraft in a catastrophic emergency, it must be deployed at a proper elevation and airspeed.
The 2000 Cirrus SR20 was registered to the Marion Pilots Club, a group of some 10 individuals. Additional photos of the aircraft and the accident site can be seen in the attached slide show which accompany this report.
One of the first on the scene, and a person who witnessed the accident was Darren Smith, who owns Cal and Shan’s Tree Farm in Woodstock, IL. He was outside working when he heard what sounded like an airplane in trouble, coming down through the clouds.
According to Mr. Smith, “There was nothing anyone could do for any of those people. I saw it a split second before it hit the ground. It was a horrific crash, pretty much nose-first into the ground. The impact was tremendous,” he said to a reporter for the Daily Herald.
His son, who was working with him, described the sound of the crash as like a gas pipe exploding. When the two men reached to accident scene they saw bodies lying on the field next to a plastic container with popcorn and papers from the airplane.
Sadly, there was no movement on the soggy ground. All four persons had already expired. “We tried to help, but there was no help that could be given,” Mr. Smith added.
Debris from the aircraft was spread over a distance of more than 300 feet.
The flight had originated from Marion Municipal Airport (MZZ), in Grant County, Indiana, but the destination airport had not been reported, and apparently no flight plan had been found.
Light rain was falling at the time of the accident, along with a cloud ceiling of about 900 feet and visibility of 1.75 miles, according to the National Weather Service. Winds were from the south.
The Cirrus SR20 carries a pilot and up to three passengers. The aircraft type was first flown on March 21, 1995, and received FAA certification on October 23, 1998. As of December 2006 over 2000 Cirrus aircraft had been delivered.
The aircraft has a cruising speed of 178 mph, a range of 903 miles, and a rate of climb of 828 feet per minute.
We would sincerely like to offer our condolences to the family and friends of those who perished in this tragic accident.
Tell us your thoughts. Please leave comments below or by email and subscribe to get future updates. There is also expanded coverage of other recent news articles. You may also wish to follow our dispatches as the News Analysis Examiner.