Pilot crashes into in-laws' house

Updated: 2007-03-06 13:32

INDIANAPOLIS - A pilot took his 8-year-old daughter up in a small plane Monday and crashed it into his former mother-in-law's house in southern Indiana, killing himself and the girl, authorities said.

In this screen grab from AP video, Indiana State Police spokesman 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten talks about the 'intentional' Indiana plane crash into a house in Bedford, Indiana, March 5. [AP]
A preliminary crash investigation leads "us to believe that this was an intentional act," Indiana State Police spokesman 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said.

The crash in Bedford, about 20 miles south of Bloomington, killed Eric Johnson, 47, of Bedford, and his daughter Emily, Bursten said.

Emily did not go to school Monday, and Johnson's ex-wife, Beth Johnson, went to Bedford police headquarters about 11:30 a.m. to say she believed he might have abducted the girl, Bursten said.

That was about 45 minutes after the single-engine Cessna crashed into the residence of Eric Johnson's former mother-in-law, Vivian Pace, Bursten said.

"It is just gut-wrenching to think about what was happening to that child just prior to the crash," Bursten said Monday night at a news conference in Indianapolis.

Father and daughter had been on a trip together, but Beth Johnson expected the girl to be in school by Monday morning, Bursten said.

"She had a feeling this morning something was wrong," Pace told WISH-TV in Indianapolis.

Authorities will not know for sure whether the crash was intentional until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation, which could take up to a year, Bursten said.

State police had no record of disputes between the Johnsons, Bursten said.

Earlier, before the pilot was identified as a relative, Pace told The Times-Mail newspaper that she was in the living room of her one-story home when the plane struck the side of the building. She said everything fell off the walls.

She said she had heard a plane making a "horrible noise" before the crash.

The crash happened near Virgil I. Grissom Municipal Airport, where the plane had been leased, state police Cpl. Eric Dunn said.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to be trying to land when it veered sharply and went out of sight, the newspaper reported on its Web site.

There were no reports of injuries on the ground, though the impact left much of the plane lodged inside the house.

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