The aircraft crashed early Tuesday morning in a field near Illinois's Bloomington airport

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
April 07, 2015 03:05 PM
David Proeber/The Pantagraph/AP

Seven people returning home from the men’s NCAA championship basketball game in Indianapolis on Monday night were killed when the twin-engine Cessna 414 they were riding in crashed near Bloomington airport in Illinois.

Everyone on board the small plane died, according to the Chicago Tribune, and victims included Scott Bittner, the plane’s owner, who also ran a local meat-processing company, and Terry Stralow, a partner in a popular Bloomington bar.

According to authorities, the small plane left the Indianapolis airport around 11:15 p.m. and hit heavy fog in central Illinois. Around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, Peoria air traffic control contacted Bloomington’s airport to say it had lost radar contact with the Cessna, the Tribune reports.

Emergency crews located the plane around 3:15 a.m. Tuesday., according to the Indianapolis Star.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed a Cessna 414 crashed on approach to Bloomington’s airport. An FAA team will investigate the crash site, and the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the overall investigation.

Bittner’s father-in-law, Scott Barrows, said Bittner and others had flown to Indianapolis for the NCAA championship on Bittner’s plane, which he typically did not pilot himself.

“They had a pilot, he was very experienced,” he said.

An employee at Bittner’s company says Bittner received a call from Stralow on Monday morning inviting him to the game.

“He called and said, ‘You want to go? I got an extra ticket,’ ” Terry Wertz told the Tribune. “I asked him, ‘Are you going?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m, going. I might not ever go again.’ ”

Bittner reportedly leaves behind a wife and two children, ages 10 and 12.

Stralow, a co-owner of Pub II in Bloomington, frequently attended sporting events, according to his business partner and longtime friend John Rokos.

He would go “to a lot of basketball, football games when he can. Especially around the championships,” he told the Tribune.

“He was like my little brother,” Rokos said. “I’m in shock. … This is a tragedy. It’s just a terrible loss. It’s shocking.”

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