In the moments after a single-engine plane crashed into a southern Michigan city park, killing three people, one man frantically told an emergency dispatcher: "It's fully _ it's gone."
That and several other calls to 911 made after the March 29 crash help paint a picture of the chaos amid the fiery accident in Munson Park. The recordings, a total of about 6 minutes, were obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"It is down. It went down. It crashed. It's on fire," a woman said during one call.
When a dispatcher asked another caller if he knew if anyone had been hurt, the man's reply was: "I think it's beyond hurt."
Another caller said the airplane was "destroyed" and there were "definitely no survivors." "It's fully _ it's gone," he said.
Jeff Smith, 27, of Monroe, was about 50 yards away, spending time with some friends, when the plane flew overhead "barely above the trees," he said.
"It just turned and was all the way on its side and did a nosedive right into the ground and just blew up," he said, noting there were a number of tennis matches under way nearby and a playground "full of little kids."
Smith, who works for a company that assists the mentally disabled, said he initially was in shock.
"I couldn't believe I just saw that. I started to run over there, and while I was running over there, I called 911," he said.
On Tuesday, a week after the crash that killed its pilot, auto-parts business owner Rick Howell, and two of his employees at Toledo, Ohio-based Conforming Matrix Corp., all that was left at the crash site was some yellow police tape and a homemade sign that was staked into the ground.
The sign read, "You've always been our hero" and was signed by Howell's 10 grandchildren. A bouquet of flowers lay nearby.
His brother, Randy, stopped by with a niece, who wanted to pay her respects before traveling back home to Oklahoma.
Randy Howell said his family was close as evidenced by the tail number of his plane: N619VH, which references their mother, Violet Howell's birthdate of June 19.
"That way she could always be watching over him," Randy Howell said.
Rick Howell, of LaSalle, was flying to nearby Custer Airport from a business meeting in Pennsylvania. With him were Conforming Matrix employees Nathan Brahier of Fremont, Ohio, and Jeremy Tate of Oregon, Ohio.
The company has released a statement that said it was "deeply saddened" about the deaths of the "three beloved members of our company family."
"Collectively, we offer our sincerest condolences to Rick's, Jeremy's and Nathan's families," the statement says. "There are no words that can adequately express the depth of our sorrow. These individuals were each exceptional people and will be deeply missed." Monroe is about 35 miles southwest of Detroit and just north of the Ohio state line.
The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash and had no comment on Tuesday.