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Drug-carrying plane crashes in Detroit ballpark

Plane
The small plane, possibly en route to Canada, crashed in a Detroit ballpark Sunday   

Looters reportedly grab cargo as pilot lay dying

April 20, 1998
Web posted at: 11:39 a.m. EDT (1539 GMT)

DETROIT (CNN) -- At least two witnesses to a small plane's crash in a Detroit ballpark helped themselves to the plane's cargo -- bundles of marijuana -- as the pilot lay dying, area residents who saw the crash said.

The small, homemade plane, carrying more than 300 pounds of marijuana, crashed in the ballpark Sunday at 6:11 p.m., apparently out of fuel after a trip of about 1,500 miles. Three U.S. Customs Service planes had followed the craft after it crossed the Mexican border near Big Bend National Park, south of El Paso, Texas.

Officials believe the pilot might have been trying to escape to Canada. Agents denied taking any action to force the pilot to land.

"They began following it covertly, I want to emphasize covertly," Customs spokesman Vince Bond said. "We can't shoot them down, we don't shoot them down, we don't ever force aircraft down. It's unsafe."

Gloria Johnson said she heard a boom, then saw the plane hit a tree and crash Sunday into a west Detroit ball field next to a junior high school. She said the pilot was still alive and talking when neighbors ran to help.

Crash site
Unmarked bundles littered the crash site   

"There were big bundles of drugs and money all around the plane," Johnson said. "The bundles of marijuana looked like two big suitcases."

"A couple of guys came to help, then grabbed the bags of drugs and left," she said. Police would not confirm her account.

The pilot died at the scene.

Some residents near the field said they were thankful nobody else had died in the crash. "It was too close to the house, too close for comfort," said one woman, who added that she was glad no one was on the playground at the time. icon 85 K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

CNN affiliate WDIV contributed to this report.

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