EAST HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Four bodies have been recovered, after a small plane crashed in East Haven, Conn. – leaving two houses in flames.
The bodies — two from the plane and two from one of the two houses it struck — were pulled from the site Friday shortly before midnight, said Anthony Moscato, deputy chief of the East Haven Fire Department. He said they are believed to be the only victims.
Hours after the crash, the wreckage was so substantial that rescue crews could not get into the homes to search for victims. Four bodies had been recovered as of Saturday morning.
By Saturday afternoon the NTSB had completed the recovery of the aircraft. Crews spent the day on Saturday cleaning up the accident scene, restoring power to the neighborhood, and moving residents back into their homes.
The two homes damaged in the crash were scheduled to be demolished early next week. The plane was removed and taken to a secure location.
Initial indications suggest that the plane was inverted when it struck the house. A preliminary report on the accident was expected in ten days, but a final report was expected to take a year to compile due to lengthy lab work and other factors, according to the NTSB.
As Kate Rayner of WFSB-TV, Hartford, reported, neighbors remained shocked hours later the multi-engine, propeller-driven plane struck two small homes a few blocks from Tweed New Haven Airport on Friday.
“When I bought this house they said it would never happen, and it happened,” a neighbor said.
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.
It could take days for investigators to examine the crash site. Neighbors said they could not believe such a thing happened at all.
“Boom, boom, boom like a real loud bomb,” said witness Nelson Rivera.
Among the presumed dead were two girls – ages 1 and 13. The body of the baby was found in the debris.
Officials said the single mother of the children was in front of the home when the plane went down, while the children were in the back. Neighbors said the mother came outside and was screaming.
They said the family just moved in.
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.”
A nearby resident told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall that planes fly over the homes near Tweed Airport every five minutes, and they are low.
“They are very loud, and you say to yourself, ‘Please stay up there, stay up there,’” the man said. “It’s scary sometimes. It is.”
He said about 24 planes fly over his cape style home near where the tragedy occurred. A woman added that many of the trees were cut down recently, and the planes are so low you can actually see the faces of the people on the planes as they fly overhead.
“You can,” she said. “My mother lives in Florida and she flies in and out of Tweed all the time, and one time my kids and I were outside so she could wave to the kids as they were going by.”
Authorities believe that the pilot was turning the plane to land on the runway, the pilot was rated for instrument flight with a multi-engine certificate.
Officials said the pilot, identified as Bill Henningsgaard – a former Microsoft executive — was on his way to Tweed New Haven Airport from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport when he crashed. Witnesses said the twin Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B plane came falling out of the sky, crashed and burned.
Investigators found the body of an adult male, believed to be the pilot. There were reports that his son was onboard, on a tour visiting colleges.
“It’s very overwhelming to watch,” said a witness named Samuel. “To sit here and watch, it’s very overwhelming.”
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.
Meanwhile, a vigil for the victims of the crash was held on Saturday night at Margaret Tucker Park.
Joann Mitchell the mother of, Sade Brantley and Madisyn, the two girls who were in the house at the time of the crash was on hand but too distraught to speak as neighbors gathered to offer their support.
Instead she opened up on her facebook page.
“The feeling of emptiness engulfs me. Mommy will always love. R.I.P. my sweet angels,” she wrote.
Friends struggled to come to grips with what happened to their young neighbors.
“It was hard to know it happened down my street, and it happened to one of my good friends,” a girl said.
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