By Naomi Pescovitz, WTHR Weekend Sunrise anchor - email
A small plane catches fire after crashing into a Greenwood home. (Jared Dotts photo)
Jared Dotts photo
Bill Gilliland (Family photo)
GREENWOOD, Ind. -
The pilot of a small plane that was departing from Greenwood's airport died when the plane struck a home on Patterson Street. Three others were injured in the crash.
The plane was leaving Greenwood airport for a routine inspection out of state when it crashed, just moments after taking off.
"For unknown reasons, it lost power on take-off and came down here, just south of the runway," said Greenwood Police Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
Crew at the airport say the plane didn't sound right after take-off and was smoking.
Witnesses say the plane struck one home, then crashed through a fence and some power lines before striking the second home.
"It was going like that and it about hit the tree house, then it started to go down and hit the top of somebody's roof and then it crashed and then we saw all these flames and then we started to cry," said 8-year-old Allison Siefert, who was in a tree house nearby when the plane crashed.
"All of a sudden it was like a big crash, explosion. I ran out of the garage, the girls started screaming, they had seen the whole thing. Then immediately, we started running to get the neighbor, to make sure she was okay. When I got to the other house where the plane was, they were already starting to pull one of the passengers out," said Amanda Siefert.
"It was a big boom and all of a sudden, the black smoke started up in the air. I didn't know what it was," said Sam Linder.
"It was really scary. There was a lot of fire, flames and smoke," said witness Shannon Murphy.
Witnesses who rushed to the scene tried to get to the pilot, identified as 46-year-old William Gilliland, but the flames were too hot for them rescue him. The co-pilot, identified as Michael Elliot of Tarpon Springs, Florida, is listed in critical condition at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
Gilliland was a Vice-President at Simon properties who released a statement on Saturday, "We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident and mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Bill Gilliland. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."
Police say Gilliland had recently bought the plane and needed the co-pilot on board as an instructor as he worked to earn his instrument pilot's certification.
Jared Dotts says his fiancée, a nurse, was one of the people who rushed to the scene to help, pulling the co-pilot to safety.
"The plane could've blown up. We heard a couple pops when they were moving the patient away from the area," Dotts said. "She was very brave."
Two people on the ground were injured trying to help the occupants of the plane. One of them suffered a sprain and the other was shocked by a downed power line.
"I think that's a hero move right there," said Linder.
Two of those injured are listed in stable condition at St. Francis Hospital in Greenwood.
Chelsea, a nurse, told Eyewitness News how she and another bystander pulled one person out of the plane. She was afraid of the fire, but with "all the lines down and the fire going pretty strong I just wanted to help get the guy away."
Authorities say the plane's wreckage may not be removed from the scene until at least Saturday and possibly not until Monday.
Gilliland is survived by his wife and two daughters, ages 12 and 14.
Statement from the Gilliland family
Gilliland's wife, Angie, issued the following statement Monday evening:
"The many acts of heroism that surround the rescue of his co-pilot and attempted rescue of Bill were all sacrificial in nature and mere words cannot express the gratitude our family feels for your actions.
"Those special people know who they are. They are the ones who so fearlessly dropped everything and rushed into the face of danger to try to rescue two men. Our family and our community are blessed by your bravery. Thank you for your heroic deeds and the high value you placed on not one, but two human lives. Our prayers remain with the Elliot family.
"Bill brought joy to his family and others as he lived life as a man committed to Christ."