A 13-year-old grandson, who was hospitalized after being ejected from the aircraft, was the only survivor from the Tuesday evening crash, Mackinac County Sheriff officials said.
The pilot, Moshe Menora of Skokie, Ill., was killed, along with Rikki Menora, 16; Rachel Menora, 14; and Sara Klein, 17.
The grandchildren had been visiting from Israel for about a week, Moshe Menora's widow, Sema Menora, told The Associated Press Wednesday.
She said the boy, Nathaniel Joseph "Yossi" Menora, suffered burns to half his body, and that the others died instantly.
Police said the twin engine Beechcraft Model 58 had not yet reached 1,000 feet after taking off from the Mackinac County Airport when it encountered trouble. The plane flipped after striking a median barrier on I-75, before resting on the shoulder about 250 miles northwest of Detroit.
Moshe Menora and his grandchildren took off about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday in the six-passenger plane from a small airport outside Chicago on a day trip to Mackinac, his widow said.
Moshe Menora had about 30 years of experience as a pilot.
"He just wanted to do something with the children for a few hours," Sema Menora said. "They wanted to go in the plane. It was a special treat and he was a very skilled pilot.
"He had a very good relationship with his grandchildren. He enjoyed flying and wanted them to be part of what he loved, and they loved it."
Sema Menora said she last spoke with her husband Tuesday morning before they left.
"I just said, 'Have fun, have a good trip and I'll see you for dinner,'" she said.
By dinnertime, a meal of baked salmon, mashed potatoes and salad was ready.
"I knew they would be starved," Sema Menora added. "They were coming back about 5:30 p.m. Something went wrong in the takeoff."
Sholom Menora — father of Rikki, Rachel and Yossi — told his mother from the Michigan hospital where Yossi was being treated, that the plane had split in half. The boy was in the rear of the plane at takeoff, Sema Menora said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The FAA said the plane's tail number is 3081N and that the aircraft is registered out of state.
Rikki and Rachel came from Bet Shemesh, Israel, along with their brother. Sara was from Jerusalem.
Moshe Menora was born in Haifa, Israel, and had been working in real estate in the Chicago area. He and Sema Menora celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March.