SOUTH BEND – Clean up on North Iowa Street is already in progress, and we could soon see crews haul away contaminated ground soil and debris.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management got its first look at the damage Wednesday but initially had to look from outside the orange fencing, because the National Transportation Safety Board still had control of the scene and hadn't released it to the city yet.
However, South Bend mayor's Chief of Staff Mike Schmuhl said the NTSB released the scene to city officials during the afternoon, meaning demolition can start and insurance adjusters can assess the damage.
Most of the damage caused by the plane’s jet fuel and fumes damaged the houses it hit and the ground soil around them, said IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock. The agency will work with a clean-up contractor to haul the contaminated material from the site.
According to Hartsock and NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway, payment for the clean-up process generally falls on the source that caused the contamination. Since the damage came from that private jet, its owner and/or insurance company would be responsible. Insurance representatives for the owner of the plane were on scene Wednesday, Hartsock added, saying IDEM is on site to work with those companies and give the clean-up contractor guidance.
Just before noon, an excavator rolled back down Iowa Street as the NTSB, firefighters and others went back into what used to be a house to search for remaining pieces and parts of the Hawker Beechcraft Premier jet that crashed there Sunday.
The city shut down Iowa for about 90 minutes while crews searched the scene, primarily focusing on the home that sustained the most damage.
Investigators are putting the jet back together inside a secure hangar at South Bend Regional Airport and searching for any clues that might help them figure out what caused the plane to go down.
WSBT made several calls to officials at South Bend’s police, fire and public works departments Wednesday to try and get an idea of how many overtime hours crews have worked since the plane crashed and how much it will cost.
The chief of finance at the South Bend Fire Department told WSBT it’s his understanding the city will pay for that overtime initially but can later turn it in to insurance companies and likely be reimbursed for the costs.
Mayor Buttigieg’s chief of staff told WSBT the city is trying to get the neighborhood back together before it compiles and releases details about the financial impact of the crash.
WSBT also learned why it’s been a challenge to identify which of the two deceased men was flying the plane.
According to St. Joseph County Coroner Michael O’Connell, M.D., both the owner of the plane, Wes Caves, and another man in the plane, former Oklahoma University football star Steve Davis, were ejected from their seats and were found in one of the houses, making it impossible to tell who was piloting and who was co-piloting the aircraft.