Vanderbilt Three men die in two separate plane crashes

VANDERBILT, Mich. (AP) -- Two men died after their small plane crash-landed along a northern Michigan freeway on Tuesday, just hours after a Canadian pilot died when his plane went down at an airport in southwest Michigan.

The victims of the late crash on Interstate 75, about 235 miles north of Detroit, were from Gaylord, but Michigan State Police did not release their names or say which of them was piloting the plane. One man was 52, the other 32.

Sgt. Jeff Gorno said in a statement that the two-seat plane crashed shortly before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on southbound I-75. Witnesses reported seeing the plane circle the freeway before crashing along the shoulder, the statement said.

The victims were taken to Otsego County Memorial Hospital. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported that one man died at the hospital and the other was pronounced dead at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

Gorno said police aren't sure where the plane was headed, but it was registered to a company based at Gaylord Regional Airport, 10 miles southeast of the crash site.

In Portage, about 150 miles west of Detroit, authorities and witnesses said a small plane apparently experienced mechanical problems before crashing on takeoff around 8:45 a.m. from Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport and bursting into flames.

The victim of that crash was identified as 60-year-old James George Wilton of Ontario. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety could not provide his hometown Tuesday evening.

The Canadian-registered Beechcraft Bonanza A36 was bound for Muskoka Airport in Ontario, about a 90-minute drive north of Toronto. Wilton was the only person aboard the single-engine plane, said Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's regional office in Chicago.

Public Safety Assistant Chief Brian Uridge told The Kalamazoo Gazette that the aircraft caught fire after plowing into a fence near the parking lot at Great Lakes Aviation, which operates a regional airline.

Airport Director Cliff Moshoginis told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids that the crash closed the airport for about 30 minutes, but no commercial flights were affected.

The National Transportation Safety Board planned to investigate both crashes.

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