Augusta pilot leads skydivers to safety, dies in plane crash

An Augusta man has died after his plane crashed in a Taylorville, Illinois neighborhood Saturday morning.

Firefighters are calling the pilot, 30-year-old Brandon Sparrow, a "hero" for getting the passengers out before the crash.

Police said 12 skydivers were able to parachute out of the plane before it crashed around 11:30 a.m., narrowly missing at least one home. A neighbor at the scene of the crash said there was no explosion or fire upon impact and that authorities on the scene believed the pilot knew he was in trouble and dumped his fuel.

The plane had taken off from the Taylorville airport Saturday morning for a jump that was part of a Mid-America Sport Parachute Club skydiving event.

Roger Smith manages a small airport in Macomb, and he says he knew pilot Brandon Sparrow of Augusta for 15 years. Smith told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register that he wasn't surprised when he learned Sparrow stayed with the crashing airplane to ensure it didn't hit any houses, instead of using his own parachute.

Mayor Greg Brotherton says the yard where the plane landed wasn't even 75 feet wide and others could have been hurt if the plane had plowed into a home.

The FAA and other federal agencies were investigating
over the weekend. A cause of the crash wouldn't be known for several weeks.

The Jack Hamilton Funeral Home in Augusta is handling arrangements. In lieu of flowers, Sparrow's family would like donations to be directed to his immediate family to help with funeral costs. Sparrow is survived by his wife, Angela Sparrow.

Taylorville is located in Christian County, approximately 90 miles northeast of St. Louis.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report

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