NEW YORK - Three Pakistani-Americans were killed in a small plane when it crashed into a vacant lot on a block of residential homes in a Chicago suburb, authorities said on Monday.

The twin-engine Beechcraft Baron crashed in Palos Hills, Illinois,  shortly after takeoff from Chicago Midway Airport for Lawrence, Kansas, Lynn Lunsford of the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Palos Hills Deputy Police Chief James Boie said that given the spot where the plane crashed and statements by neighbours who told authorities it appeared the plane was circling before it crashed makes it a real possibility that the pilot tried to save the lives of people in all the homes in the neighbourhood. “I’d like to think that,” he said. “That is the only vacant lot for (four) blocks.”

All three were also identified in a release from Stormont-Vail on Tuesday afternoon. “Dr. Rehman and Dr. Kanchwala were extremely valued, highly skilled and beloved members of our staff,” said Randy Peterson, President and Chief Executive officer of Stormont-Vail HealthCare. “We are heartbroken. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these individuals and the staff who worked closely with them.” No distress call was sent from the plane,  said John Brannen, senior air safety investigator for the NTSB.

“The plane simply dropped off the radar,” Brannen said. The pilot, Rehman, who owned the plane, had a private licence and was trained on single and multi-engine planes, Brannen said.“He was a pretty good pilot, and I flew with him a lot,” said Ahsan Awan, who said he was a close friend of Rehman.

All three were originally from Pakistan, friends and family said. Rehman earned his medical degree at Aga Khan University in Pakistan in 2002, completed an internship in general surgery at Brown University in 2005 and did additional general surgery training at Weil Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital, according to a statement from Stormont-Vail HealthCare. He spent five years as a neurosurgery resident at the University of New Mexico before coming to Stormont-Vail in 2013.

“He was a role model for all of us, all his cousins,” said Javeria Usmani, 24, Rehman’s second cousin.

 “He always seemed really alive, he was a great talker, very inspirational and just a really good person. We really looked up to him,” she said.

Kanchwala and Maria Javaid met in medical school at DOW University of Health Sciences in Pakistan, Bilal Javaid said. Both also studied at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Kanchwala a resident in internal medicine and Maria Javaid pursuing a fellowship in cardiology. Kanchwala also completed a fellowship in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine before joining Stormont-Vail in 2010, according to the statement from Stormont-Vail.

Maria Javaid married Kanchwala – “the love of her life” – in 2011, Bilal Javaid said.