A plane crash claimed the lives of four Decatur County residents Sunday evening.
Confirmed dead in the crash were Donald P. Horan, 46, his wife Barbara L. Horan, 44, Stephen A. Butz, 45, and his wife Denise L. Butz, 42. The four were returning from a weekend vacation in Destin, Fla., according to reports. The aircraft was a PA-46 Piper Malibu capable of seating six adults.
According to reports from Greensburg Police Department (GPD) Detective Bill Meyerrose, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department (DCSD) received an emergency call at approximately 6:19 p.m. Sunday from a local resident claiming a plane had crashed.
At about 6:30 p.m., the GPD received a call from the FAA asking if an investigation into the missing aircraft was being conducted. The plane had been tracked via radar, but the signal had been lost approximately one and a half to two miles south of the Greensburg Municipal Airport. The Decatur County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) was contacted at the same time.
More than 100 law enforcement officials and emergency responders from fire departments throughout Decatur and neighboring counties soon arrived at the Decatur County fairgrounds and set up a makeshift emergency operations center in the fair buildings.
Emergency personnel from Decatur, Bartholomew, Ripley, Rush, Jennings, Shelby and Hamilton counties assisted at the scene. After hours of searching, the missing aircraft was finally located at approximately 10:45 p.m. Sunday night.
Det. Meyerrose confirmed the four casualties shortly after midnight.
Responders used ATVs to reach the crash site, which was located near County Road 200 West, about a mile east of the Greensburg Municipal Airport.
Det. Meyerrose told media the families of the victims had been notified late Sunday evening, but he declined to release the names of those killed in the crash until Monday afternoon.
Decatur County Coroner Charity Banks arrived on the scene early Monday morning. The crash site had been secured overnight Sunday, according to Monday morning police reports.
Authorities declined to speculate on the cause of the crash Monday. Rainy and foggy conditions were present around the Decatur County area Sunday evening and the inclement weather may have been a factor.
Authorities confirmed Donald Horan was the pilot of the aircraft at Monday’s press conference.
Three members of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) arrived in Decatur County Monday morning and began sifting through the wreckage at approximately 11:30 a.m. That group also stabilized the crash site. Decatur County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Robert Duckworth said the aircraft came to rest in a wooded area, on uneven terrain.
The recovery effort resulted in the extrication of the four deceased at approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were set to arrive Monday afternoon, but were delayed. They were expected to arrive at the site later Monday evening.
A somber press conference allowed Greensburg Fire Department Captain Brian Wenning to read a statement on behalf of the families of the victims, who leave behind a total of six children.
Through the statement, the families thanked the community for its prayers and support and asked for the opportunity to grieve in private.
“God has called our loved ones home,” Wenning read.
Father John Meyer of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Decatur County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Kramer stood next to Wenning at the conference.
Detective Meyerrose recapped the previously released information, then complimented the combined efforts of the numerous emergency personnel who responded to Sunday’s tragedy.
“We had so much help, so quickly,” he said.
Meyerrose said the airport’s beacon light was operating correctly Sunday night. The runway lights, which are activated by pilots as they initiate a landing, were not turned on.
Meyerrose also offered kind words for the families of the victims.
“Everybody knew these people,” said the detective. “We will miss them immensely.”
Greensburg Mayor Gary Herbert called the deaths a “great loss for the community.”
Mayor Herbert called the four victims “pillars of the community,” referring to Don Horan as “a go-getter who made things happen.”
The Mayor closed his interview by adding that those killed in the crash will be missed.
Don Horan was known throughout the community for his generosity, especially for St. Mary’s.
Horan donated a large sum in helping bring the new elementary school to fruition.
St. Mary’s staff declined comment Monday asking only that those killed in the crash be remembered in the community’s prayers.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056