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Plane En Route To St. Petersburg Crashes In Texas, Killing 10

All 10 people on board a small plane that took off from a suburban Dallas airport died in a fiery crash when the aircraft struggled to gain altitude and plunged into a hangar in Addison, Texas.
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All 10 people on board a small plane that took off from a suburban Dallas airport died in a fiery crash when the aircraft struggled to gain altitude and plunged into a hangar in Addison, Texas.

Associated Press

A small plane bound for Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg crashed at a suburban Dallas airport Sunday morning, killing 10, but the aircraft's former owner said Monday that he sold it earlier this year to a Texas-based company.

No information has been released to explain why the Beechcraft BE-350 King Air crashed into a hangar and burst into flames Sunday morning after taking off from Addison Municipal Airport. Officials have said two crew members and eight passengers were killed.

The Dallas Morning News identified four of the victims as Alice and Dylan Maritato, students at John Paul II High School in Plano, as well mother Ornella Ellard and stepfather Brian Ellard.

Other victims who were identified: Steve Thelen, who worked at a Dallas commercial real estate company, and is wife, Gina; and Mathew Palmer, 27.

The plane was scheduled to fly to St. Petersburg. Witnesses and local authorities said the aircraft struggled to gain altitude then veered into the hangar not far from a busy commercial strip and densely populated residential neighborhoods.

Todd DeSimone, the general manager of Chicago-based jet charter company Planemasters, said Monday that he sold the plane to a company based in Addison called EE Operations.

No one has responded to a message left at a phone number associated with EE Operations.

The company's agent in Delaware, where EE Operations is registered, said it would forward a request for comment.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said Monday that the twin-engine plane's tail number, N511EF, was registered in April. The FAA registry confirmed that the plane was registered to EE Operations.

Lunsford said Monday that the pilots on Sunday used the plane's previous tail number in radio communications and for the flight plan, and that questions about why they were using the old number would be addressed in the investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate at the airport north of Dallas, and officials said during a Sunday evening news conference that it was too early to determine what caused the crash. Another news conference is set for late Monday afternoon.

Edward Martelle, a spokesman for the town of Addison, said the plane was taking off at the south end of the airport and had just lifted off the runway when it veered left, dropped its left wing and went into the hanger.

David Snell, who was getting ready to fly from Addison with a friend Sunday morning, told KDFW TV that the plane didn't sound right on takeoff.

"It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn't know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left, you could tell it couldn't climb. My friend and I looked at each other and we're like, 'Oh my God. They're going to crash,'" Snell said.

Air traffic control tower audio from around the time of the crash does not capture any pilot indicating an emergency or trouble with a plane. But pilots waiting to take off soon thereafter can be heard seeking updates and being told repeatedly to wait.

The plane went down a week after another fatal crash involving a Beechcraft King Air.

On June 21, a slightly different model crashed shortly after takeoff in Hawaii, killing 11 people in the deadliest civil aviation accident since 2011. The skydiving plane also rolled to one side just after takeoff. It became inverted and crashed a short distance from the runway, the NTSB said. It was engulfed in flames and everyone on board died.

Although the registered owner remained the same, the aircraft had recently relocated to Hawaii after it was involved in a 2016 accident in California that left it with significant damage.

Textron Aviation, the manufacturer of Beechcraft planes, is working with the NTSB in the agency's investigation of the Addison crash and is prohibited from offering further comment, company spokeswoman Stephanie Harder said Monday.

Lunsford, the FAA spokesman, said "it's still too early to draw any conclusions about any apparent similarities between this accident and any others."