SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The investigation continues into a plane crash in South Haven that took the lives of two men. Many questions remain, including when and how the plane went down.
On Friday, authorities identified the two victims as 70-year-old David Peahl of Wayland and 70-year-old Douglas Golike of Lawton.
Police said family told investigators that one of the men recently bought the plane. Both men were experienced pilots.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane left the South Haven Regional Airport between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday. South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson told News 8 it appears the plane crashed shortly after takeoff.
Michael Vandentak, who lives right across from the woods where the plane crashed, was up early that morning and did not hear any noise.
“There was no explosion,” Vandentak said. “No fire. And now I’m thinking that if a plane came down and was softened by the blow of trees and underbrush, there may not have been much noise.”
Thompson said that quieter crashes are more common than you may think.
“You typically think when an aircraft, no matter what the size, when it crashes, it explodes,” Thompson said. “But that is typically not the case.”
With no apparent witnesses, the plane wasn’t discovered until Wednesday morning — 24 hours later. That’s when Vandentak learned about the news.
“I know people that know them and are hurting right now thinking, ‘what a loss,’” Vandentak said.
It’s unclear why the plane went down. The NTSB and FAA are investigating.
The South Haven airport is about half a mile away from Michael’s home. He sees planes flying over often.
“All the time, and I love it,” he said. “Crop dusters. People training. It’s not unusual to hear low-flying aircraft touch and go. It’s second nature, and you love the look of the planes as they go by.”
He has even considered creating an emergency landing strip outside his house.
Late that Tuesday morning, Vandentak did see a plane flying unusually low over the woods.
“It was coming at a pretty good speed,” Vandentak said. “The engine was making lots of great engine noises. And I thought it was interesting that it’s coming this low. It was plenty above tree level and it went over that way, and then nothing. No more sound whatsoever.”
He could not confirm that’s the plane that crashed. He said it may have happened too late in the morning for it to be the same plane.
Vandentak has lived in South Haven for most of his life, and he said this has never happened before. He added that he was in “absolute shock” when he learned about the crash.
“You never think it’s gonna happen near you, close to you, across the street from your property,” he said.