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US Sen. John Heinz, 6 Others, Killed In Air Crash 20 Years Ago Today

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(A fireman examines a portion of the wreckage of the crash that killed Sen. John Heinz.  AP file photo)

(A fireman examines a portion of the wreckage of the crash that killed Sen. John Heinz. AP file photo)

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) - Today marks the 20th anniversary of a deadly plane crash in the skies over Lower Merion that claimed the life of US senator John Heinz and six other people.

“We saw a big, black explosion in the sky about, I would say, a hundred yards to the right of our house,” said Sue Jones, just one of the eyewitnesses who saw the small plane collide with a helicopter over Merion Elementary School on that sunny Thursday afternoon in 1991.

heinz US Sen. John Heinz, 6 Others, Killed In Air Crash 20 Years Ago TodayThe plane was carrying US Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa., right), who was scheduled to meet with constituents.

All three people on the plane, plus two on the chopper and two children in the schoolyard, were killed.  KYW Newsradio’s Tony Hanson was one of the first reporters on the scene.

(Hanson on KYW in 1991:)   “The plane was experiencing some difficulty with its landing gear.  A helicopter was sent up to take a look at the craft, apparently the two aircraft crashed almost directly over this elementary school (and) came crashing, burning, to the ground.”

Five others, including three children, were hurt. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that errors in judgment by both pilots caused the crash.

Reported by Brad Segall, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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