The stories of the four men on-board the ill-fated twin-engine jet that crashed Sunday in South Bend, are slowly being learned.
Wesley Caves, 58, and Steve Davis, 60, an Oklahoma University football legend, were both seated in the cockpit of the Hawker Beechcraft Premier IA aircraft. According to the St. Joseph County Coroner’s Officer, the two good friends died on impact from blunt force trauma.
Passengers Jim Rodgers, a former Tulsa, Okla. firefighter, and his son-in-law, Chris Evans of Broken Arrow, Okla., miraculously survived the crash. As of Wednesday night, Rodgers was listed in serious conditions at Memorial Hospital, while Evans was still in fair condition.
The four were on a business trip that departed the Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport, near Tulsa, at 2:58 p.m. EDT Sunday. The flight was scheduled to arrive at the South Bend Regional Airport at 4:23 p.m., but crashed in the 1600 block of N. Iowa St. instead.
Caves owned the eight-seat plane, which was registered to his Tulsa-based business, DigiCut Systems. The company performs window tint and clear overlay paint protection film for a variety of automobiles. To read more about the corporation, click here.
Davis made most of the preliminary headlines because of his prominent history as an Oklahoma Sooner starting quarterback during the mid-1970s. However by Tuesday, a family of firefighters began speaking out about Jim Rodgers, a 27-year veteran of the Tulsa Fire Department.
"He was a very aggressive firefighter. He went in to put out the fire or perform a rescue. His truck was never one to stay outside and hang back a little bit. He took his guys and they went in,” Capt. Stan May, a public information officer with the Tulsa Fire Department, said.
Over the years, Rodgers moved up the ranks, being promoted to Captain at Firehouse 32. There he oversaw three other men on Ladder Truck 32. He spent his final few years with the departments as an assistant fire marshal before retiring in 2005.
"He was quite respected, even to the high degree of a captain. He did a very good job of not only controlling his firefighters, but teaching them and making aggressive firefighters out of them. They're still very loyal to him, they really love the guy,” May added.
That other survivor, Chris Evans, is Rodgers' son-in-law. Like Caves, Evans and Rodgers worked in the auto paint and window tinting business.
According to Evans’ Twitter account, @sooner_bourne, the crash victim has three young children, is a big Oklahoma fan, and is of course married to Rodgers’ daughter.
Tuesday morning Evans’ wife tweeted, "Thanks for the prayers. Chris & my dad need them! The news here keeps covering the plane crash. I can't believe they survived."
According to Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Maggie Scroppe, family members arrived in South Bend late Monday. Rodgers, whose injuries include broken bones and internal wounds, is expected to undergo more surgeries in the days ahead. Both are expected to survive.
"You get very close to the men and women that you work with, and that sticks with you even after you retire. So anytime that one of our fellow firefighters is having trouble, even after they retire, we're going to do whatever we can to help the family. He's still one of our brothers and we're going to try and take care of him,” May concluded.
Amazingly only one person on the ground was injured. According to a good family friend, Diana McKeown was home alone when the twin-engine aircraft crashed into her home and began leaking jet fuel.
South Bend firefighters had to rescue McKeown from the rubble, after the ceiling and roof of her home collapsed on top of her. She had complaints of neck pain en-route to the hospital.
As of Tuesday evening, McKeown remained in fair condition at Memorial Hospital. The same family friend said the South Bend native was able to move around her hospital room and shower with the help of a walker Tuesday. She is expected to make a full recovery.