SHARONVILLE, Ohio &

Two small planes collided Friday afternoon over suburban Cincinnati, raining debris onto roads and backyards and killing three people on board but missing those on the ground as rush hour approached, federal investigators said.

The two aircraft narrowly missed falling on a busy freeway.

&

8220;I&

8217;m just thankful it wasn&

8217;t worse than it was, with school buses and people coming home from work and the interstate that we have nearby,&

8221; said Michael Schappa, Sharonville&

8217;s police chief.

The Federal Aviation Administration had no information about the planes&

8217; flight plans or why they were so close together. Blue Ash Airport, a runway used by small planes, is several miles away. State Highway Patrol Lt. Wayne Price said investigators assume both planes took off from there.

The planes&

8217; pilots were not required to file flight plans and apparently were not in contact with air traffic controllers, the FAA said. Under federal regulations, the pilots were responsible for maintaining a safe distance on a clear, sunny afternoon.

Two of the victims were aboard a Cessna 172, and their identities were withheld pending notification of relatives. The pilot of the other plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was identified as Neils Harpsoe of suburban West Chester.

No injuries were reported on the ground. Several roads and highways were temporarily closed because of the debris.

A piece of a wreckage rested against a guardrail on a heavily traveled highway, where a police car with lights flashing blocked the debris for investigators as vehicles drove past.

Resident Joe Muenks said wreckage from one of the planes fell in a yard about three blocks from his house.

&

8220;It took out about a third of a tree,&

8221; Muenks said. &

8220;The plane nose-dived ... The metal was so crunched together we could just see there was no way anyone who was in there could have survived.&

8221;

His son, Kevin, was playing basketball in the backyard and heard the collision.

&

8220;I just heard a big pop and I looked up,&

8221; Kevin Muenks said. &

8220;The plane was just coming straight down, just nose-dived into the ground. There was no explosion, fire or anything.&

8221;

What remained of the other plane landed in a street a few miles away, blocking the two-lane road with some debris ending up in a front yard.

Based on witness accounts, the FAA initially said one of the single-engine aircraft might have been a helicopter. The agency later confirmed two planes were involved.