Three people dead after plane crash in Monroe, MI - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Three people dead after plane crash in Monroe, MI

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Rick Howell (Source: Conforming Matrix) Rick Howell (Source: Conforming Matrix)

By Tim Miller - bio | email

Posted by Desmond Strooh - email

MONROE, MI (WTOL) – Three people died in a single-engine plane crash at Munson Park, near Custer Airport. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash.

The first call came in at 4:04 p.m. on Tuesday,

St. Mary's Catholic Central tennis player Regan O'Connor was warming up with her team for a match when she noticed the plane above.

"And so we were all kind of just pointing and giggling at him, thinking the guy was doing a trick for a bunch of girls," she said.

But it was about to turn tragic. O'Connor and her teammates were only about 100 yards from the impact.

With tears in her eyes, O'Connor said, "And he came in and he was all the way to his side, parallel to the ground. And he came around and just hit the ground coming back and there was just a huge explosion."

The three on board the Piper Malibu were killed instantly. Our media partner the Toledo Blade reports the pilot was Rick Howell of LaSalle, MI. The two passengers were Nathan Brahier of Fremont, Ohio and Jeremy Tate of Oregon, Ohio.

Monroe police and fire rushed to the scene but only parts of the tail were still intact. Family members arrived throughout the afternoon to see the confirmation of their fears.

When asked if it was tough to respond to tragedies like this one, Monroe police Lt. Charlie Abel said, "Oh it's always tough. I've done this for 25 years and it's always tough."

There has been no official information released by the FAA or NTSB, but The Blade also reports the pilot's brother believes the plane was having engine problems and he may have been trying to land.

Regan O'Connor thinks the pilot made sure he did not hit the girls on the tennis court.

"I mean it could have been our last day and he made sure that it wasn't for us. I'm going to thank God every day because I am alive and unfortunately they're not."

Reports indicate the victims were returning from a business trip to Bedford, PA when the crash happened.

The three men were employed by Conforming Matrix of Toledo, Ohio. The company released the following statement concerning the crash:

"We at Conforming Matrix are deeply saddened to confirm that three beloved members of our company family perished in a tragic accident on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. 

"Rick Howell, Jeremy Tate, and Nathan Brahier were traveling back from a business trip when the plane they were traveling on crashed in Monroe, Michigan.  Collectively, we offer our sincerest condolences to Rick's, Jeremy's, and Nathan's families. 

"There are no words that can adequately express the depth of our sorrow.  These individuals were each exceptional people and will be deeply missed.  At this difficult time, we ask that everyone keep the families in their thoughts and prayers, and to please continue to offer their support and sympathy."

Stay with WTOL.com and News 11 for more on this developing story.

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