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 / Updated  / Source: NBC News

A small plane crashed early Tuesday in an Illinois farm field, killing all seven people on board, including two Illinois State University athletics officials, authorities said.

The plane, a twin-engine Cessna, left Indianapolis just after midnight ET and crashed about a mile from its intended destination of Bloomington, Illinois, the McLean County Sheriff’s Office said. Bloomington is about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the passengers were on their way back from the NCAA basketball championship, which was played Monday night in Indianapolis. Authorities said they could not comment on the report.

Fog may have played a role in the crash, authorities said. They did not immediately release the names of the dead.

Illinois State University President Larry H. Dietz released a statement Tuesday afternoon identifying two of the victims as members of the school's athletic department. One, Torrey Ward was an associate head coach for the men's basketball team and the married father of two. The other, Aaron Leetch, was deputy director for athletics for external operations and also had two children.

"Words cannot fully express the grief that is felt in the wake of such a tragedy," Dietz said. "We move between shock and profound sadness."

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating.

Investigators work in a thick fog at the site of small plane crash near Bloomington, Ill., on Tuesday. The Cessna 414 took off from Indianapolis and crashed just short of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington after midnight.David Proeber / The Pantagraph via AP
— Erin McClam