A small plane that crashed into a suburban Indianapolis golf course was flying normally on a clear day just before witnesses say it suddenly spiraled into the ground, killing two Purdue University students onboard.
The single-engine plane crashed into the Harbour Trees Golf Club, which winds through a neighborhood along Morse Reservoir in Noblesville, early Thursday evening. The plane smashed to a halt in a sand trap next to a putting green, leaving scorch marks on the nearby fairway.
Federal aviation investigators were returning to the golf course Friday to try to determine the cause of the crash, Noblesville police Lt. Bruce Barnes said.
The crash killed pilot Joshua Deboer, 21, of Chicago Heights, Ill., and passenger Joseph Neuzerling, 21, of Noblesville, according to police.
Both were mechanical engineering students at Purdue, school spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said. The privately owned plane took off from the university's airport near West Lafayette about a half hour before the crash, she said.
"This is a tragic loss for not only their family and friends, but for everyone in the Purdue community," Norberg said. "Both these young men had bright futures."
Nearby resident Eric Smith told The Indianapolis Star that he was the first person to reach the plane after it circled above the golf course near his home and then "corkscrewed" into the ground.
He said the crash sounded "like a gunshot _ one thump, then done."
Smith said he pulled away a wing that was lying on top of one of the occupants, but that the man had no pulse. Only when emergency personnel arrived did he realize there was a second man in the plane.
Another witness said nothing appeared wrong until just before the crash.
"All of a sudden the left wing just dropped," John Clayton told WRTV. "I never did see it come up from the tree line."