GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) —The Johnson County Coroner has identified the pilot who was killed in a plane crash in Greenwood Friday afternoon. The co-pilot who was critically injured has also been identified.
The crash happened at 29 Patterson Street, near Main Street, around 2:20 p.m. Chopper 8 flew over the scene and saw the wreckage in the backyard of a home.
“I thought it was just an accident on the street and I came out here and people were running out that way and I didn’t dream it would be a plane,” Sam Linder, who lives near the crash, said.
Police say the plane lost power on take-off from Greenwood. Witnesses, including Greenwood Municipal Airport employees, noticed when Gilliland took off that the plane was smoking and wasn’t sounding right.
“Striking the first house, sliding through the yard before striking the second house,” Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
After impact, it caught on fire, but two men on the ground sprung into action. They pulled the co-pilot from the plane with the help of a first-responder. The co-pilot has been identified as Michael Joseph Elliot of Tarpon Springs, Florida. He was born in 1951, according to police.
Police say those two men were also injured while helping the crash victims, one shocked by electrical lines and the other hurt his leg. Police say they are minor injuries. Still the community is thankful they feared the flames so bravely.
“I think that’s a hero move right there,” Linder said. “I’m surprised that not a lot more people didn’t get hurt, because of the way it came down.”
“The flames got too hot and they were not able to get back to the plane and rescue the pilot,” Fillenwarth said.
The pilot has been identified as 46-year-old William Michael Gilliland, of Greenwood. Gilliland was survived by his wife, Angela, and their two daughters, ages 12 and 14.
Officials said Gilliland had purchased the used plane a couple of years ago and he was a 14-year seasoned pilot. Gilliland was trying to get his instrument certification which is why the instructor was with him.
Gilliland and the instructor were going to Texas to get the planes annual inspection.
American Red Cross volunteers are now working to help families inside the three homes that are without power, two of which are damaged.
“To help them get through the immediate emergency and start getting things settled down,” Red Cross volunteer Tom Blake said.
And folks like Linder are reflecting on the crashing plane that could have hit any house on Patterson street.
“Little bit too close to home, I mean it could have been this side, that side, anywhere,” Linder said.
Gilliland was the Vice President for Simon Property Group. Simon released the following statement after learning about the crash:
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident and mourn the loss of our friend and colleague Bill Gilliland. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
A small plane went down in Greenwood in March. A flight instructor and his student were injured in that crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators will arrive from Chicago to investigate on Saturday morning.