CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Two investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board spent the day examining the wreckage of a small, private plane that crashed Wednesday near Spirit of St. Louis Airport.Family members confirm that the pilot who died in the crash was 72-year old Jim Smith, a developer who engineered the $125 million renovation of the Chase Park Plaza.Smith was flying a Beechcraft Bonanza B36 plane. The aircraft clipped the canopy of a BP station near the intersection of Long Road and Chesterfield Airport Road, before crashing in the parking lot just before 3:00 p.m., police said. An airport official said Smith told air traffic control he was losing power and wasn't going to make it to the airport.The plane was flying into Spirit of St. Louis Airport from Albuquerque, the FAA said.After the plane crash, several people who work nearby grabbed fire extinguishers to try and save Smith."We couldn't get the flames out. It was out of control and someone was trying to hit the windshield with a hammer and it was bouncing right off," one man said. "There was nothing we could do."The rescue effort is not unnoticed by Smith's friends and family."Anybody that steps forward in a time of need, especially when they're putting themselves at risk, they're heroes," said Richard Fredman, a friend of Smith.A relative who didn't want to be named said Smith had talked about emergency landings and the relative was confident Smith made every effort to put the plane down where it posed the least risk to those on the ground.Smith was an instrumental figure in the rebirth of Chase Park Plaza. Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted:"RIP Jim Smith - one of the finest guys I have ever worked with. Saved the shuttered Chase Park Plaza- positive impact for entire CWE and CVC Commish- so so sad."Longtime Chase Park Plaza Hotel employee Jeanne Venn said she worked with Smith during the time he was the managing general partner and remembers him fondly.Venn told News 4, "He was one of the finest men I've ever had the pleasure of knowing."The FAA and Raytheon, the airplane's manufacturer, are assisting in the investigation.
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