BUCYRUS, Ohio A plane carrying a family of four from Texas crashed less than a football field away from an apartment building, killing everyone on board.
Witnesses heard the small plane s engine sputtering and saw sparks just before it hit the ground Sunday night.
The crash left a trail of debris, some of which hit the apartments. No one on the ground was injured. There was a crater in the ground, said Bricely Dyer, who lives in the apartment building.
If it had gone a little further, it would have hit the apartments, said Chris Beck, another resident.
Paul and Lillian Martin, of Austin, Texas, and their chidren, 10-year-old Kitanna and 11-year-old Shawn, died on impact, authorities said.
The family had been visiting relatives in Oklahoma and was flying to Searsmont, Maine, where they planned to spend the holidays at their farmhouse.
The Martin family was well-known in Searsmont and once hosted the town s Heritage Days celebration after taking down and rebuilding a historic barn on their property, town Clerk Kathy Hoey said.
Investigators said they had not determined who was flying at the time of the crash.
Paul Martin, 49, was the founder of a marketing research firm in Austin.
A family friend said he was an experienced pilot who frequently flew the family to their summer home in Maine and other spots around the country and in Mexico.
He d been flying for years and years, said Caryn Macdonald, a longtime friend whose husband worked as the senior analyst at Martin s company, TFCinfo.
Lillian Martin, 45, was a stay-at-home mom who was thinking about returning to marine archaeology, Macdonald said. She wrote The Art and Archaeology of Venetian Ships and Boats.
The family spent the summer in Crete so Lillian Martin could help excavate an ancient shipwreck. While she worked, Paul Martin taught the children how to scuba dive and helped Kitanna work on a science fair project about ancient pottery.
Whatever they did, the whole family did it with a whole heart, Macdonald said. They were just a very active and lively family.
Their plane went down in a field about 60 miles north of Columbus.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash. No distress call was detected, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Light rain was reported in the area when the crash happened about 7:10 p.m.
The plane crashed about a mile from the Bucyrus-Crawford County Airport, but there was no indication that they were trying to land there, said Lt. Chris Zurcher of the State Highway Patrol.
Residents said they heard the plane s engine sputtering, followed by an explosion.
Debris struck a nearby apartment complex, causing minor damage to the building.
Wilmalisa Crawford, a resident of the complex, said she ran outside and saw remains of at least two people in the debris. She said she also could make out book bags and toys.
Judy Grochowalski spotted the plane overhead with sparks flying as she and her husband unloaded groceries from their car Sunday night.
I knew it was going to crash. I ran into my house and called 9-1-1 immediately, she said. I heard it crash as I dialed the numbers on the phone.
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