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Former Springfield Mayor, Sangamon County Coroner, Glenarm Man Die In Plane Crash

NPR Illinois/LLCC

Authorities have now officially confirmed the identities of three people who died when a twin engine plane crashed in Sangamon County Tuesday afternoon.  The county sheriff's office Wednesday morning released a statement confirming the crash killed former Springfield Mayor Frank Edwards and his wife Cinda, the Sangamon County Coroner, along with John Evans of Glenarm.  A dog on board also died.  

The plane had left Florida and stopped for gas in Alabama.  It was headed for the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.

“The tower reported the plane was having trouble on approach due to weather and its instruments,” said Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell. “The plane apparently tried to make a circle around Springfield where they could come in again.  At that time is when the tower lost contact with the plane.” 

The Piper Aerostar went down in a field and caught fire on the southeast side of  Springfield, near Rochester after 3 p.m.  The crash site, near White Timber Road, was only about 75 feet from a house, said Campbell.  No one on the ground was injured, but some residents were evacuated as a precaution. 

Campbell said authorities are seeking witnesses to the crash and will also canvas the area to see if there are security camera recordings. 

Frank Edwards, 69, was a former Springfield Fire Chief.  He was elected alderman in 2003 and, following the death of Mayor Tim Davlin, took over the city’s top job in 2010.  He served until 2011 and then was elected again as Ward 1 Alderman, staying on the council until 2015. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2019, losing to incumbent Jim Langfelder.   

Cinda Edwards, 63, had been a nurse and served as coroner since 2011.  She had also was a former Chair of the  Lincoln Land Community College Board of Trustees.

The couple owned a local business, Springfield Auto Body and Towing .

The other victim was John Evans, 69, from Glenarm.  An online search shows Evans had spent more than two decades working for the Capital Development Board.  More recently, he operated Evans Consulting Services.  

Tributes and condolences poured in. 

Mayor Jim Langfelder: “I was saddened to hear about the tragic passing of Cinda and Frank Edwards and John Evans. Cinda was a dedicated member of the Lincoln Land Community College Board of Trustees and brought true integrity to the Sangamon County Coroner’s Office under difficult circumstances. Frank helped protect the citizens of Springfield as a member of the Springfield Fire Department for 25 years, including as Chief.  He went on to become Alderman of Ward 1 and represent the residents from 2003 to 2015. We especially appreciate his four months on the council when he served as interim Mayor upon the death of Mayor Tim Davlin, and helped the city navigate through another difficult time.  We recognize both Cinda and Frank for their public service and commitment to Springfield and Sangamon County. Our hearts go out to both families and join everyone in keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”

“My heart breaks for the families of those involved in this tragedy,” said Illinois Senator Andy Manar. “Cinda and Frank Edwards were devoted public servants to the communities of Springfield and Sangamon County. I ask everyone to join me in sending heartfelt condolences to the Edwards family.”

"Mayor Frank Edwards got this City through a very difficult time. I know this City will do the same for everyone who loved him and his family, " said Ward 6 Alderwoman Kristen DiCenso in an online post. "My thoughts and prayers go out to the Edwards family, who gave so much of themselves to this community."

Ward 9 Alderman Jim Donelan posted on Facebook: "I first met Ffank Edwards when he was an Alderman, but really got to know him during a time of tragedy. He provided comfort, friendship, and worked diligently to improve the City of Springfield during very trying days. He loved life, his family, and community. May all involved in this heartbreak rest in peace, and your families and our City find comfort and healing."

The Springfield Fire Department also posted a message: "Chief Edwards served the citizens of Springfield from 1977 to 2002 and continued to serve his community in retirement as Alderman and Mayor. He and his wife Cinda will be missed, our thought are with their son, his co-workers, their friends and family."

"My heart is saddened at the loss of Frank and Cinda Edwards. We have lost 2 people so precious to our hearts," said Sangamon County Republican Party Chair Rosemarie Long.  "They were a great couple, dedicated to serving our community, supporters of our party and worked tirelessly for every candidate and many community organizations. Please join us in keeping their family, especially Alex, in our thoughts and prayers."

Lincoln Land Community College President Charlotte Warren issued this statement: "It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the loss of Cinda Edwards, former chair of the Lincoln Land Community College Board of Trustees, and her husband, Frank Edwards, yesterday in a plane crash. Cinda and Frank were among LLCC’s biggest proponents and supporters.  Cinda was a proud graduate of our nursing program. She was elected to the LLCC Board of Trustees in 2007 and rose through the ranks as board secretary, vice chair, and finally chair of the board in 2011. She served as chair for two years, presiding over the opening of the Workforce Careers Center. Cinda was known for her calm, decisive leadership and tireless support of our students, faculty and staff. Frank was her constant supporter and was so proud of her many accomplishments. We extend our deepest sympathy to their son, Alex, an alum of LLCC, along with their extended families, countless associates and friends, and also to the family and friends of the third victim, John Evans."

A news release from the Sangamon County Sheriff indicates all three bodies were taken to the McLean County Coroner’s Office in Bloomington for scientific identification and post mortem examination. The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the crash.  

It was also announced Sheriff Campbell will serve as county coroner on an interim basis.  The County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter is expected to nominate a full time replacement within 60 days.  

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