A teacher and maintenance director for Bensenville Elementary School District 2 were killed early Saturday when a small plane they were flying to Canada crashed in northern Wisconsin, authorities said Sunday.
The Cessna 421C crashed about 3:21 a.m. Saturday after suddenly losing altitude near Catawba, Wisconsin, according to the Price County Sheriff's Office. Wreckage of the plane was found near the intersection of U.S. Highway 8 and State Highway 111, the sheriff's office reported.
Authorities said six people were aboard the plane when it crashed. There were no survivors. The sheriff, Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
A statement posted on the Facebook page of Tioga Elementary School in Bensenville says a teacher and a second district employee were among the victims.
"We are very sad to inform you that Thomas DeMauro, Tioga PE teacher and Charles (Chuck) Tomlitz, GCA Maintenance Director for BSD2 were killed in a plane crash in route to a Canadian fishing trip," reads the statement signed by Tioga co-principals Carlos Azcoitia and Jeff Kersten. "The plane crashed early (Saturday) morning after rapidly losing altitude, according to police. Mr. DeMauro and Mr. Tomlitz will be missed by all the Tioga Community."
Roberta Murphy, co-president of the Bensenville Education Association, said teachers and staff are grieving the loss of their colleagues. DeMauro, a teacher in the district for about 30 years, was loved and respected by his students and community members, she said.
Tomlitz was known as a staff member who "would do anything for anyone," Murphy added.
"Everyone is just devastated," she said. "We've never had something like this happen as long as I can remember."
Hoping to support the families of DeMauro and Tomlitz, Murphy created a GoFundMe online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/tom-chuck-memorials. It had raised nearly $8,000 as of Sunday night.
"It seems so trivial, but when something like this happens, you want to do what you can for the families," Murphy said.
District 2 Superintendent James Stelter and several board members did not return calls or emails seeking comment Sunday.
Price County Coroner James Dalbesio III would not confirm the number or identity of any victims Sunday afternoon, saying his office was still working to notify family members.
The Cessna 421C, a twin-engine plane capable of carrying up to seven passengers, took off from Waukegan headed to Winnipeg, Manitoba, with six people aboard, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
• Daily Herald staff writer Lauren Rohr contributed to this report.
Cessna 421C Golden Eagle
|Owner/operator:||Sky King Flying Service Inc|
|C/n / msn:||421C0698|
|Fatalities:||Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6|
|Airplane damage:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||Price County, E of Catawba, WI - United States of America|
|Departure airport:||Waukegan Rgn'l (KUGN)|
|Winnipeg Int'l (CYWG)|
A Cessna 421C Golden Eagle was destroyed when it impacted timbered terrain near the intersection of WI-111 and US-8 east of Catawba, Wisconsin. The Sheriff's Department was notified by the Air Marine Operations Center that their radar indicated an small aircraft made a rapid descent, disappeared from radar.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators said there was a discussion between the pilot of the plane and air traffic controllers about "local weather phenomenon." At about 1:53 a.m., the aircraft dropped off radar.