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Pinckneyville, IL Commuter Plane Crashes Into Pond, Oct 1983


Pinckneyville, Ill. (AP) -- An Air Illinois plane apparently suffered mechanical failure and tried to made a forced landing in a lightning storm before crashing into a pond, killing all 10 people aboard, police and airline officials said today.
State police spokesman MELVIN KERSTEN said the flight manifest showed seven passengers and three crew members aboard Flight 710 on its daily flight from Chicago to Carbondale when it crashed about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday about 25 miles from its destination.
The British-made, twin-engine Hawker Siddeley 748 plunged to earth near a farm and strip mine in southern Illinois' Perry County about five miles northeast of Pinckneyville
Heavy rains were reported in the area just before the accident. State Police Lt. JOHN RICHTER said the crash site was spread over a-half to three-quarters of a mile, with part of the plane resting in a large pond.
RICHTER said police had sealed off the area for investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Civil Aeronautics Board.
Air Illinois spokeswoman ALICE MITCHELL said the company believed the crash was due to mechanical failure, possibly from lightning. The crew was experienced, she said, with both the pilot and co-pilot having logged more than 5,000 hours of flying time.
MS. MITCHELL said Air Illinois officials believed the plane may have tried to make a forced landing in a field, but ran up a ridge and became airborne once again, when it lost a wing. The wingless fuselage ended up in a pond.
Paramedics said the plane apparently "hit a hill and then some woods and shattered," according to spokeswoman JEANNIE STEWART at Pinckneyville Community Hospital.
JOHN FISHER, 78, who owns land at the crash site, said he and his wife heard the aircraft circle over their property a couple of times before they heard the crash. The FISHERS said they heard no indication of engine trouble before the crash.
The crash was first reported to state police by residents a few minutes after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The company had made the final payment on the 10-year-old plane at noon Tuesday, company officials said.
The accident was the first fatal crash in Air Illinois 14-year history, MS. MITCHELL said.
She identified the dead crew as Capt. LESTER R. SMITH, 32, Carbondale, the pilot; First Officer FRANK S. TUDOR, 28, of DeSoto, the co-pilot; and BARBARA J. HUFFMAN, 29, of Murphysboro, a flight attendant.
SMITH had more than 2,000 hours of experience in the plane and more than 6,300 hours in total flight time.
TUDOR had accumulated 1,700 hours in the plane and a total 5,113 flight hours.
HUFFMAN was the senior flight attendant for the airline.
The passengers were identified as JEROME LORENZ, no age available, of Carbondale, the director of Southern Illinois University's Rehabilitation Institute; RICHARD BAKER, no age, of Carbondale, a professor in the rehabilitation institute; JEROME BROWN, no age, of Homewood; JUDY CHANTOS, no age of Springfield; JONATHAN CHANTOS, 2, of Springfield.

Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 1983-10-12


Errors in story

I worked for Air Illinois at the time and spent two days at the crash site assisting the NTSB in affect recovery, I do not recall any "pond" in this property, there was an area that could be considered a small creek where the cockpit rested; however, there was nothing left of the fuselage. The largest piece remaining of the plane was one of the wings.

Air Illinois 710 crash

Hello Mr. Mahon.

My sister, Regina Polk, was a passenger on this flight back in October of 1983. I continue to this day to collect information about this crash.

It seems there are often conflicting or differing reports as to how the plane broke up, where it landed, etc. An article I just found states that a part of the wreckage did land in a pond, and there is a picture included with the artlcle.

Since it was reported that there were heavy rains in the area at the time of the crash, I'm wondering if the so-called "pond" was just a low-lying area that had filled up with rain water?

It must have been difficult duty to work at the site of the crash. Thank you for your part in gathering information and helping with the investigation.

Eileen Cordova
Sierra Vista AZ

Mr. Mahon, If I remember

Mr. Mahon, If I remember right if you would have crossed that creek and head up the hill kinda north west you would of seen a small pond . I was attempting to enter the coordinates from Google earth of the pond and site. Give me a call and I will give you them to you are any one who needs to know. 618-985-9808 ask for Ron.

Ms. Cordova: My name is

Ms. Cordova:

My name is Cindy (Loyd) Royster and I was a Perry County Deputy Sheriff at the time. I was the first person on the scene of the plane crash. I remember the day well. There was in fact a small pond on the Fisher Property. If I can be of further assistance to you please feel free
to E-Mail me.

My father was a pilot for

My father was a pilot for air illinois and used to fly the very plane that crashed. i think he had quit just prior to the crash, but knew the others involved, it was a unforgivable lapse in jugement on the pilots involved. My father doesnt like to talk about t to this day. I am sorry for everyones lose.

Air Illnois Crash

I to use to work for Air Illinois and flew on this plane several times. Infact I was on the plane at times when Les and Frank were the crew.

I quit the Aug before the crash and it is still very difficult to this day for me. I still remember the pictures on tv of a shoe like pilots worn and thinking that probably belonged to Les or Frank.

I too am very sorry for the loss of everyone. I so wish it has not been pilot error. It is still very difficult to beleive

Email address

Ms. Royster,

I just now found your message. Thank you for your kind offer to provide information. I don't know how to email you, so if you see this message please email me at neeliec2000 at yahoo dot com.

Thank you so much.

Were you a flight attendent

Were you a flight attendent at air illinois? if so im sure you knew my father, which at this time will remain nameless, i would have to ask him if it was ok to mention his name. He too,as i suspect to all envolved it was and still is hard to imagine what Les and/or Frank were thinking that night. I suspect ( and im no expert I was 13 at the time) That there was a little male ego involved in the decision to continue the flight after the lose of the generator. i think what drove the decision was a need to prove to the senior pilots that he could bring the plane safely home. The president of Air illinois told my father in the days following the crash " you should feel lucky that you dont still work here because you could have been on that flight." My Fathers response was " If i had been on that plane that night, it would be sitting in that hanger right now." I think that probably says it all.

Air Illinois Alumni

What a sad day this was. I was a station agent at Air Illinois while in college. I kew these crews well. Very sad. I wonder if there is anyone interested in starting an "Air Illinois Alumni" website or such. Anyway just a thought.

my grand parents owned this

my grand parents owned this land. there is a pond.

article | by Dr. Radut