Witnesses describe seeing ball of flames behind homes as plane crashes in Overland Park, killing two

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Two people died in a plane crash Tuesday afternoon in Johnson County.

The incident was reported just after 4 p.m. near 156th and Parkhill Street, just east of the Johnson County Executive Airport.

“I came out and I saw just fire and I was like oh my goodness there was a plane crash,” Jacob Hoskins said.

Morse Village Estates neighbors were shocked first by the sound, then the sight of the single-engine plane that crashed on the other side of a tree line and into a field separating their neighborhood from the airport.

“My first thought was just to pray for those families,” Claire Hoskins said.

The crash happened on the Overland Park side of the airport, though Olathe Firefighters were first on the scene.

“The closest appropriate units anywhere in Johnson County are automatically dispatched. We work as a team all the time,” Olathe Fire Captain Mike Hall.

As fuel leaked from the wing firefighters used chemicals to put out the fire about 20 minutes later. But there was nothing they could do for the two people inside.

The Kansas Highway Patrol arrived to take over the investigation.

On Wednesday morning the victims were identified as 48-year-old Jonathan Vannatta of Maumelle, Arkansas, and 43-year-old Darcy Matthews of Belton, Texas, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

The agency’s crash report said Vannatta was piloting a fixed-wing, single-engine plane. He took off from the Johnson County airport and, according to KHP’s crash report, when the plane went into the air, it began to fall straight down.

The plane landed in a field not far away, just east of the runway, and caught fire.

Crews worked into the night trying to uncover any clues from the wreckage.

“Right now it’s a scene investigation, taking pictures, taking measurements,” Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gustavo Ramirez said.

But the Johnson County Executive Airport Director Larry Peet said the crash location on the other side of the tree line is making things difficult in the dark. FAA and NTSB investigators will likely have to be out in the daylight on New Year’s Day to find out more.

It doesn’t appear the pilot filed a flight plan, something Peet said wouldn’t have been needed on a clear day like today. In a review of air traffic control logs around the time of the crash a pilot could be heard requesting clearance to fly south to Arkansas.

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