NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A pilot was hospitalized after a small plane went down Sunday morning in Bayonne, New Jersey.
The Bayonne Office of Emergency Management said the plane crashed on Avenue E between 41st and 42nd streets.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft was a Piper PA-28, and departed from Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, Long Island. The plane was registered to a Queens flight school, WCBS 880’s Myles Miller reported.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, the pilot, identified as George Pettway, 56, of Wheatley Heights, was the only occupant in the plane. He radioed for help near the Statue of Liberty, but what brought him down in Bayonne was unknown.
“From what I understand he had complications over the Statue of Liberty decided to take this route,” Bayonne Police Capt. Robert Shork said.
The plane appeared to make a sharp turn to avoid a gas station. It took down power lines and came to a rest on 42nd Street, where it totaled several cars but stopped short of hitting any homes.
No one in the cars was injured.
Sections of a wing slammed onto the pavement at the gas station, inches away from the pumps. Another plane part slammed into a glass door of the gas station retail area, when three people were inside.
Investigators say witnesses told them the distressed pilot appeared to make a sharp turn to avoid it.
“I was taking customers as this piece of plane came crashing down. It was just a few feet away from where I was working,” Hamza Faiz, a gas station employee, said. “Anyone could have died.”
The people inside were shocked, but uninjured.
Witness Gail Ellerson told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez she believes the pilot was trying to save lives by attempting to turn the plane.
“The plane when it came in to my site it was unstable by then,” Ellerson said. “It was going back-and-forth but it was gearing towards the left. Which means he saw the gas station.”
Other parts of the downed plane dotted Avenue E, and residents said the situation could have been much worse.
Rose Palmisano was in her house on Avenue E.
“It was like an earthquake in our house,” she said. “We came out and the wheels were upside down and someone said it was a plane.”
Photos taken at the scene showed parts of the plane scattered around a residential block with police and fire crews surrounding them.
Bayonne police Lt. Timothy Wilgus said Sunday afternoon, the scene remained “extremely hazardous” due to live electrical lines that came down.
“We don’t want to see anyone get injured, and there’s still puddles on the ground from the snow that’s melting away, so it’s extremely dangerous,” Wilgus said.
Crews extricated the pilot from the plane.
“They did a phenomenal job getting him out,” Bayonne Mayor James Davis told 1010 WINS’ Andrew Falzon.
The pilot was conscious when he was taken to Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City for treatment.
“It could’ve been a disaster, we were very lucky,” Director of Public Safety Robert Kubert said.
The pilot was reported to be alert at the hospital as of Sunday afternoon and his condition was reported to be stable. He was undergoing tests.
It was not known if he would be released before the end of the day Sunday.
The plane will be housed locally while an investigation begins.
“And then it’s just a matter of, like I said, getting jet fuel out of the plane,” Davis said.
Utility crews are working into the night to get the power back on. The pilot is in Jersey City Medical Center.