FAIRFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A small plane fell out of the sky in West Caldwell, New Jersey on Saturday, bursting into flames and narrowly missing homes in a highly-populated neighborhood.
The Hawker Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft took off from Essex County Airport before crashing approximately one mile south around 12:45 p.m.
Judging by the flaming wreckage of the small plane, it’s amazing the pilot actually survived, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
The plane crashed in the woods behind a row of houses on Patton Road. Witnesses said they were stunned no one was killed.
“I heard a big boom and my wife hollered immediately, ‘there’s plane crash, there’s a fire,'” Bob Alviggi said.
The single-engine aircraft burst into flames 10 feet from his fence. Part of the plane even landed in his backyard.
“I’ve been here for almost 40 years and nothing like this has ever happened, and we’re concerned about it, but what can you do?” he said.
Alviggi saw a pair of good Samaritans come running through the woods to rescue the pilot.
“They pulled the guy out of the plane, and he supposedly went to the hospital. He has a broken leg and serious burns,” he said.
Those two men who risked their lives and ran toward the fiery debris were Michael Martino Jr. and his father, who’s a retired Newark fire captain.
“I really didn’t have time to think. My main concern at that point was whether or not the plane was going to explode, and were we close enough, and getting that guy out as far away as possible,” Martino Jr. told Conybeare in an exclusive interview.
“I yelled to him if someone else is in the plane, and he said there was no one there, but he had a broken leg,” his father said. “But we still picked him up and moved them into the safety zone.”
Thanks to them and three other men, the pilot survived and was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson.
The Martinos said they didn’t consider themselves heroes and wanted people to know there were three other men risking their lives right there with them.
“It makes me feel good that if something ever happened to me or my family, that there’s people in this area that would do the same thing that we did today,” the son said.
Firefighters arrived and quickly put out the flames, exposing what’s left of the plane, which apparently bounded off a building nearby as it came down.
“Hit the top of the building, clipped it, hit the parking lot, then wound up in the tree line in the embankment,” witness Mark Wells said. “Luckily for the building owners and for the pilot, it could have been a lot worse.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the crash.