By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TAYLORVILLE, Ill. -- A small plane crashed in central Illinois on Saturday just moments after a group of skydivers jumped from the aircraft, authorities said. The pilot, Brandon Sparrow of Augusta, Ill., was killed.
The twin-engine Beechcraft 18 was destroyed in the crash, which happened around noon near homes in Taylorville, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro.
Taylorville resident Gloria Johnson was unloading groceries from her car in her driveway when the aircraft came down in her neighbor's back yard, slamming into a tree and showering the area with debris.
"(I) just heard this great big sound, you know, like an airplane backfiring," Johnson, 61, said. "It went boom and it just went down over there next door. ... There were plane parts everywhere, pieces all up and down Rich Street."
One of the skydivers raced to the scene after landing and told police that eight people had parachuted safely from the aircraft, which had taken off from the local airport, Johnson said.
She said she didn't see an explosion or fire upon impact.
A police spokesman in Taylorville could not be reached for comment.
Federal Aviation Administration investigators were on the scene gathering information before turning over the accident investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board, Molinaro said.
Services for Sparrow, the pilot, are pending at the Hamilton Funeral Home in Augusta.
Herald-Whig staff writers contributed to this report.