Ex-Oklahoma QB Killed in Plane Crash in Indiana
By TOM COYNE and JEFF LATZKE, Associated Press
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Steve Davis, Oklahoma’s starting quarterback when it won back-to-back national championships in the 1970s, was one of two people killed when a small aircraft smashed into three homes in northern Indiana, officials said Monday.
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. 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.
The plane leaked enough fuel to force the evacuation of hundreds of people from surrounding homes, but most residents were allowed to return Monday morning.
Frank Sojka, 84, who lives in the first home that was struck, went back to his home Monday morning so police could retrieve some items. A total of eight homes remain under mandatory evacuation.
“I’m surprised people survived that,” he said as he sat in his car with his son, waiting for police to move the barricade on his street.
Sojka said he was in the front bedroom of the home he’s lived in for 55 years when he heard a loud, dull sound.
“I got up and went into the living room and I could see the sky through the ceiling and all kinds of debris in the far end of the living room,” he said.
The front part of the fuselage sat wedged inside the third house just southwest of the South Bend Regional Airport, where the pilot had tried to land the plane Sunday afternoon.
Two others on board the plane survived, South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said. South Bend Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Maggie Scroope said Monday that Jim Rogers was in serious condition and Christopher Evans was in fair condition.
A woman who neighbors said lived in the middle house that was struck, Diana McKeown, was in fair condition, Scroope said.
Authorities cut the power to several homes in the neighborhood after fuel leaked from the jet’s engine into the basement of the home where the fuselage sat creating a “very dangerous” situation, Corthier 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. It isn’t clear how Caves and Davis know each other.
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 California in the second game of the 1973 season, and then ran off 28 straight victories with Davis under center. The Sooners went 11-0 in 1974. They won the national title again the following year after going 11-1.
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 Monday he has no firsthand knowledge about what caused the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Todd Fox said late Sunday the agency will be looking for the cause of the crash and “to identify and remedy any issues that could have prevented this accident.”
Latzke reported from Oklahoma City.
Associated Press writers Ken Kusmer and Pam Engel in Indianapolis, and Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.
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