News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 18, 2013

Ex-Oklahoma athlete killed in South Bend plane crash

SOUTH BEND — Former University of Oklahoma championship quarterback Steve Davis was one of two people killed when a small aircraft smashed into a house in northern Indiana, officials said today.

St. Joseph County Coroner Randy Magdalinski identified the victims of Sunday’s crash in South Bend as 60-year-old Steven Davis and 58-year-old Wesley Caves, both of Tulsa, Okla. An Oklahoma athletics official confirmed it was the same Davis who played for the Sooners in the 1970s. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the school has not yet announced the death.

Caves owned the Beechcraft Premier I twin-jet that clipped one house before slamming into two more Sunday afternoon. Caves had a pilot’s license, but it was not immediately clear if he was flying the plane when it crashed.

Davis went 32-1-1 as the Sooners’ starter from 1973 to 1975, starting every game of Barry Switzer’s first three seasons as head coach. Oklahoma tied Southern Cal in the second game of the 1973 season, then ran off 28 straight victories with Davis under center. The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974, then won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.

The plane leaked enough fuel in the crash to force the evacuation of hundreds of people from surrounding homes. The front part of the fuselage sat wedged inside the house just southwest of the South Bend Regional Airport where the pilot had tried to land the plane Sunday afternoon, minutes before the crash.

Two others on board the plane survived, South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said. South Bend Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Maggie Scroope said today that Jim Rogers was in serious condition and Christopher Evans was in fair condition.

A woman who was injured on the ground, Diana McKeown, was in fair condition, Scroope said.

Authorities evacuated and cut the power to several homes in the neighborhood after fuel leaked from the jet’s engine into the basement of the home creating a “very dangerous” situation, Corthier said. Everyone in the neighborhood has been accounted for, he said.

One neighbor described her terror as the plane bore down on her home.

“I was looking out my picture window,” said Mary Jane Klaybor, who lives across the street from the crash site. “This (plane) was coming straight at my house. I went, ‘Huh?’ and then there was a big crash, and all the insulation went flying.”

She said: “I saw the plane, then I heard the boom.”

The plane began its journey in Tulsa, Okla. It is registered to 7700 Enterprises in Helena, Mont., which does business in Tulsa as DigiCut Systems and is owned by Caves.

Mike Daigle, executive director of the St. Joseph County Airport Authority, said the plane attempted a landing at the South Bend airport about 4:15 p.m., then went back up and maneuvered south to try another landing, but eight minutes later the airport learned the plane was no longer airborne.

He provided no information to indicate if the pilot said the plane was experiencing mechanical trouble. Daigle said today he has no firsthand knowledge about what caused the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Todd Fox arrived at the scene late Sunday. He said his agency will be looking for the cause of the crash and “to identify and remedy any issues that could have prevented this accident.”

 

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