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Minnesota man, 74, killed after small plane crashes in Will County bean field

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 9:59 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — The 74-year-old Minnesota pilot of a twin-engine plane was killed after the plane crashed in a bean field in unincorporated Manhattan Township in Will County this afternoon, officials said.

At about 2:48 p.m. the Will County Sheriff's office was called after the plane crashed in the field in the vicinity of Gougar and Offner roads, according to Will County sheriff's spokesman Ken Kaupas. The crash happened near the border of Manhattan Township and Wilton Center, he said.

Crews responded from the sheriff's office and area fire departments and confirmed that a twin-engine plane had crashed, he said.

The Will County coronor's office identified the deceased pilot as Larry Allan Diffley of Bemidji, Minn. Kaupas said the man was contracted as a pilot for several oil supply companies in the Midwest, said Kaupas. No one else was on the plane, he said.

The FAA identified the tail number as N4016A. The number was assigned to a Beech 58 fixed-wing plane built in 1970. It was registered to Bemidji Aviation Services Inc. in Bemidji, Minn., according to FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

According to the company's Website, Diffley was one of the owners of the company, which began in 1947 and which Diffley and a partner purchased in 1970. According to the company Website the company specializes in charter airplane flights for executives.

Officials have not determined where the man's flight originated nor where he was headed.

Kaupas said the impact left a debris field stretching more for 500 yards from where the plane first touched down to where the fusilage rested, said Kaupas. He said an engine landed about 300 yards from the plane.

"We have quite a debris field...There had to be a great deal of force associated with this crash when he first touched down," said Kaupas.

He said there did not appear to be any fire associated with the crash and there was no smell of gasoline. He would not speculate whether the plane ran out of fuel.

"I'm not an expert, that will be determined by the FAA. I have in my past been by other small airplane crashes and the smell of fuel has been more predominate--I don't smell any fuel here," said Kaupas.

Authorities on the scene were assessing the crash site, which is surrounded mostly by rolling farmland. An old farmhouse is nearby.

Elwood resident Hank Delair said he saw the plane shortly before it crashed. The contractor was cleaning a ditch southeast of the crash site about 2:30 p.m. when he saw the plane make a turn overhead.

He said planes patrol the Enbridge oil pipeline once or twice a week and the plane that crashed appeared to be doing routine patrols. Delair did not see or hear the crash because he was wearing headphones as he worked in the ditch, he said.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to begin their investigation Wednesday, said Isham Cory, the spokeswoman for the FAA.

Freelance reporter Dennis Sullivan contributed to this story.

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