EAST HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A small plane crashed in an East Haven neighborhood on Friday, engulfing two houses in flames and likely killing four to six people, authorities said.
Emergency crews remained at the scene hours after the multi-engine, propeller-driven plane struck two small homes a few blocks from Tweed New Haven Airport.
On Friday night, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Robert Gretz said that there were casualty reports of two or three people in the plane and two or three on the ground.
“Part of the plane is in the basement and part of the house is obviously in the basement, too, so as I speak to you the state police are working with the fire department to find all the victims,” Gretz said.
The aircraft crashed at 11:25 a.m. as it was approaching Tweed New Haven Airport en route from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Arriving rescue workers found a frantic woman on the front lawn shouting that her children were still inside one of the houses, setting off a desperate search, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.
“We couldn’t find out where the kids were,” Dennis Karjanis told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.
Would-be rescuers said they were haunted by memories of the mother who met them out on the lawn begging for help.
“She was very, very out of control because her 1-year-old and 13-year-old were in the house. The two guys who went inside say the plane’s wing was sitting on the crib,” Karjanis said.
Soon after the crash, officials said at least three people were missing: the pilot and two children.
“We are doing everything we possibly can for the mom, who is here with her priest and family,” Mayor Joseph Maturo said.
Rescue crews later reported seeing two bodies in the plane wreckage.
“As quick as we could we did a search, we set up a fire suppression and started knocking down the houses and proceeded with the search of the buildings. Unfortunately, we haven’t recovered anybody at this point and we presume there is going to be a very bad outcome,” East Haven Fire Chief Douglas Jackson said Friday.
The plane’s fuselage entered one of the houses and the recovery effort was focusing on the home’s basement, Gov. Dannel Malloy said earlier Friday.
“Understand that this is a disaster site,” Malloy said. “There’s a lot of damage, a lot of fire damage and a fair amount of water that’s probably now about thigh deep in the basement.”
The pilot of the plane was identified as Bill Henningsgaard, a former Microsoft executive, Young reported.
CBS 2 has learned Henningsgaard was involved in a small plane crash in April 2009. The plane went down in the Columbia River near Astoria, Ore. Henningsgaard and his mother were on the plane when the aircraft had engine trouble. He splashed into the river. Both were rescued by the Coast Guard.
The FAA identified the plane in Friday’s crash as a Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B. The plane took off from Teterboro Airport, the FAA said.
Lori Hoffman-Soares with Tweed New Haven Airport said everything seemed fine as the plane approached.
“All we know is that it missed the approach and continued on,” she said. “There were no distress calls. As far as we know, everything was operational.”
“We’re used to hearing planes, then I heard the engine and the engine really didn’t sound good at all and then it went into the house,” witness Alyssa Hawley told Young.
The worst fears of this neighborhood next to the airport were finally and tragically realized, CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.
“We saw it spiraling down and watched it hit the house,” Karjanis said.
“A whoosh of air came down and I felt the ground shake,” Josh Euskozitz said.
“Boom, boom, boom; Like real loud; like a bomb,” Nelson Rivera added.
“It was smoke; It was like blue-fire smoke coming from the house and it’s fear; All you see is fear,” Monique Hawley said.
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