CARLSTADT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Two crewmembers were killed when a small private jet crashed in an industrial area near Teterboro Airport in Carlstadt, New Jersey Monday afternoon.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Learjet 35A from Philadelphia crashed while attempting to land on Runway 1 at Teterboro at 3:40 p.m.
The plane went down about a quarter mile from the airport in Carlstadt, according to the FAA. One man driving nearby saw the plane moments before the crash.
“It was completely on its side,” witness Andrew Barcia said. “And my girlfriend said it flipped over completely and then we saw all the smoke.”
Surveillance video captured the moment of impact as the Learjet slammed into the ground and burst into flames.
Just before that, one of the crewmembers spoke about making a turn with air traffic control.
“Around 3:30 this afternoon, our agency received numerous 911 calls,” Carlstadt Police Deputy Chief Thomas Berta said at a Monday afternoon press briefing. “We immediately dispatched police, fire, and EMS to the scene.”
When units arrived on scene they found a group of industrial buildings on fire. First responders quickly worked to evacuate the surrounding area, according to Berta.
In total, three buildings were involved with the crash scene. Officials say the damage was mostly contained to the exterior of the buildings, and the Carlstadt Buildings Department is working to determine whether any of the structures can be occupied once the wreckage is cleared.
“There were no injuries reported on the ground at this time,” Carlstadt Mayor Craig Lahullier said at a Monday news conference. “I tell you, it’s a miracle we were all out of there in time.”
Officials say the two people who were killed were crewmembers.
“We understand that we did have two people that are deceased that were on the airplane,” Lahullier said Monday evening. “Our condolences to the families.”
A thick plume of black smoke was visible after the crash, but firefighters from the surrounding area had the fire largely contained within an hour. In addition to the three buildings, a total of 13 cars were damaged as a result of the crash.
The plane’s registered owner is A&C Big Sky Aviation LLC in Billings, Montana. The jet began the day in Teterboro at 7:32 a.m. and flew to Bedford, Massachusetts, then Philadelphia, before departing for the return to Teterboro at 3:04 this afternoon, according to Flightaware.com.
Teterboro was closed for several hours following the deadly crash but has since reopened for departing flights.
The airport remains closed to incoming flights until further notice, according to the Port Authority.
The crash rattled a community already worried about the crowded skies over their heads. Some residents say their biggest fear became a reality Monday.
“It sounded just like a firework and then next thing you know, boom,” witness Marquel McCray said. “It was unbelievable.”
McCray was loading trucks about 20 feet away when the Learjet crashed and exploded, raining wreckage all over the parking lot.
One witness compared it to a missile strike. The fiery crash and explosion that shattered the routine roar of landings that usually fade into the background for people who work near Teterboro, many of whom at the Carlstadt Department of Public Works — which had just closed for the day.
“Buildings on both sides of ours were on fire,” Borough Spokesman Joe Orlando told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “Cars on fire in our lot; there’s the plane. There were people that were still in there after I was. So that was our concern, we thought we still had people in there.”
Luckily, said Orlando, everyone had already left.
As first responders rushed to the scene and started pouring water on the flames, Christopher Pastor was driving by — stunned by what he saw.
“I got out of work and as soon as I heard a big boom I turned around immediately and proceeded to where the smoke was coming from. I’m not a firefighter or a policeman, but me personally, I was raised by good, wonderful parents, and I came here immediately. I just started scoping the place to see if anyone was injured or if there was anything that I could do,” Pastor told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “Right there, all the cars were on fire. All the fuel went all over. The posts started to get on fire.”
Pastor said he saw about a dozen cars on fire after the crash.
“Since I lived here, I’ve never seen something like this. It’s just shocking,” he said. “It was like as if a missile just came down. It’s just shocking to have something like that near our neighborhood.”
Members of the group “Concerned Citizens Against the Flight Path of Teterboro” say the crash confirms their daily fears. They’re scared there will be a next time, and are worried it could be even worse.
“They fly over my house nonstop every two seconds,” resident Kristen Frendak said. “Very low, like 500 altitude. It sounds like they’re going to crash into the roof of my house.”
County Executive Jim Tedesco tried his best to alleviate those concerns Monday evening.
“It’s not different from airports across the country,” Tedesco said of Teterboro. “There’s risks with everything. I’m very confident with the operations here at Teterboro.”
The crash was caught on time lapse video from North Arlington, New Jersey
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate the cause of the crash. They — along with officials from the FAA — will continue their investigation Tuesday morning.
Former NTSB investigator Al Yurman said that a top priority will be talking to witnesses. The weather will also be closely looked at, as investigators will try to determine whether or not wind was a factor.
As CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported, there was a high wind advisory in the area that had expired just before the crash.
The Bergen County Medical Examiner is on scene working to determine the identities of the deceased crewmembers.