4 killed in fiery plane crash at Bellevue YMCA - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

4 killed in fiery plane crash at Bellevue YMCA

Posted: Updated: Feb 4, 2014 11:03 PM CST
Glenn and Elaine Mull (Courtesy: Facebook) Glenn and Elaine Mull (Courtesy: Facebook)
Mull and his daughter, Amy Harter (Courtesy: Facebook) Mull and his daughter, Amy Harter (Courtesy: Facebook)
Amy's daughter, Samantha Harter (Courtesy: Facebook) Amy's daughter, Samantha Harter (Courtesy: Facebook)

Four people were killed in a fiery plane crash Monday evening at the YMCA on Highway 100 in Bellevue.

It happened just feet from the building, just outside the pool area, around 5 p.m.  

The victims have been identified as Glenn Mull, 62, his wife Elaine, 63, their daughter, Amy Harter, 40, and granddaughter, Samantha Harter, 16.

The family owned an agriculture business in Pawnee Rock, Kansas, about two hours northwest of Wichita, and was traveling to Nashville to attend the National Cattlemen's Beef Associate Trade Show at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the flight departed Great Bend Municipal Airport in Great Bend, Kansas at 2:45 p.m. Monday and was en route to John C. Tune Airport in west Nashville.

Metro police spokesperson Don Aaron said the plane, a Gulfstream 690C, initially missed its first approach and was circling for a second time, striking trees behind the YMCA before crashing to the ground.

The YMCA is 10 miles from the John C. Tune Airport.

Debris from the wreckage was spread over an area approximately 150 yards from the crash site.

Sixteen cars parked in the parking also sustained damage. Metro police said the owners could remove their vehicles from the lot Wednesday.

In a news conference Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said the cause of the deadly wreck will likely not be determined for months. A preliminary report is expected to be released in five to 10 days.

Officials added it is still unclear if the pilot called for help prior to the crash. There was no Black Box onboard the plane.

Just after 4:30 p.m., Mull radioed the tower to start his approach to John C. Tune Airport. He acknowledged that his plane was "just a little east of course."

Around 4:55 p.m., the tower tried to ask Mull if his plane was in the air or if it had landed, but that question was met with silence.

The tower had warned pilots that planes were reporting ice forming on wings, but the NTSB says it's too soon to tell if that's what caused the crash.

"We don't know what might've happened, but it is something we will definitely look at," Air Safety Investigator Eric Alleyne said.

In a media briefing shortly after the crash, the Nashville Fire Department chief stated Mull made a hard-right turn to avoid the YMCA building, ultimately savings many lives.

The YMCA is located in a busy area that includes a church, Kroger grocery store and strip mall.

Witnesses who watched the plane as it spiraled from the sky also noted the pilot's efforts to avoid crashing into nearby buildings.

"The pilot had been doing everything he could to avoid the area as it's very dense with population and businesses," stated Michael Strinich.

He continued, "The explosion was when the plane hit and the black smoke. We were at Kroger, so we didn't actually physically see it hit the ground, but we did see it come out of the clouds and spiral. It was all very quickly [sic]."

Members inside the gym at the time of the crash were evacuated as a precaution.

"Although no injuries were reported inside the Y, we know Monday's events were very emotional and trying for the members and staff who were in the building at the time of the crash. Our chaplain and counselors will be on hand to support those affected in the coming days," YMCA spokesperson Jessica Fain said in a statement.

She added, "While details of the crash are still emerging, the near-miss of our building surely saved dozens of people from harm. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims' families and all those affected by the crash."

Since members do not check out when leaving the YMCA, it is unclear how many people were inside the facility at the time of the crash though it is believed as many as 300 people entered the building between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Chastity Mitchell, wife of State Representative Bo Mitchell, was among those members inside the facility at the time of the crash.

She told Nashville's News 2 she was sitting by the pool watching her two sons swim when she suddenly heard a loud explosion.

Mitchell says she looked out the window and saw flames near the building.

At the time, she believed it was a car crash and a vehicle was on fire.

"I got the children out of the pool very quickly and started to head out along with everyone else," said Mitchell, adding that there was chaos and confusion inside the YMCA.

"There were parents trying to find children and kids, soaking wet and very scared, trying to get out in the cold. I kept hearing a lot of them say, ‘Oh, this is a strange time for a drill.' I'm like, ‘This is not a drill. I just saw flames! It's time to get out,'" Mitchell recalled.

It wasn't until Mitchell made her way outside that she realized the crash involved a plane, not a car.

"We were heading around the side of the building where the flames were coming from and a woman stopped me and just told me to stop right there, don't get any closer because of what she had seen on the ground."

Mitchell continued, "I'm very grateful to [the pilot] and the choice he made to do that and save many lives. Just a few feet to the left he would've hit the building where my kids were swimming."

The YMCA was closed Tuesday and will be for the duration of the investigation. Engineers will also inspect the YMCA building.

"We will continue to cooperate with investigators, and the Y will remain closed until we are authorized to reopen. We're told that could take as long as 24 to 48 hours, and we plan to have the facility inspected by structural engineers to confirm there was no damage before we reopen," Fain said.

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