COLONIA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – National Transportation Safety Board investigators spent Wednesday in the New Jersey neighborhood where a small plane crashed into a home yesterday.
The pilot, identified as Michael Schloss, was killed when his twin-engine Cessna 414 plunged from the sky around 11 a.m. Tuesday, plummeting into a home in Colonia. The impact set off a fire that burned three houses.
Now the town is stepping up to help.
The owner of the home destroyed by the plane crash assessed the damage with federal investigators Wednesday afternoon. His house was reduced to rubble while he and his wife were at work Tuesday. His 5-year-old daughter was at school.
The NTSB says it may take days to figure out what happened in the air to cause the twin engine plane to dive down into the quiet neighborhood in Woodbridge Township.
“I heard the impact, which was nothing I ever heard before, unbelievable impact. Heard the word, somebody screamed, ‘Oh my God,'” said Jerry Bartolino. “Flames in the sky – 30 feet in the sky – and the whole thing is engulfed.”
“It was like a huge explosion. The whole house shook,” Jane Pagano said. “Everybody’s running out of their houses to see what it was.”
Linden Airport director Paul Dudley says the pilot, Dr.Michael Schloss, a highly regarded New York City cardiologist was traveling from his home in Virginia to lecture – a routine trip.
“Something happened to overwhelm a highly qualified pilot,” said Dudley.
The NTSB says the 74-year-old pilot was cleared for landing a few miles from the airport right before he lost contact with air traffic control.
Neighboring homes suffered major smoke and water damage. Wet clothes were brought out of one home for cleaning. A mom two doors down packed up some of her family’s belongings.
Community members are donating to help the families impacted.
Woodbridge Township staff will be at the Evergreen Senior Center, located at 400 Inman Avenue in Colonia, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 2 to receive donations. Checks payable to the Woodbridge Community Charity Fund and gift cards from established wholesale/retail outlets will be accepted.
WATCH: Woodbridge Township Mayor On Donation Drive For Families
In addition, one of the families that lost their home has set up a GoFundMe.
“Insurance never quite gets you to 100% of what you’re out of pocket,” said Woodbridge Township John McCormac. “So these drives are vitally important because it makes up the difference.”
“I can’t imagine what it must be like to come home from work and not have a house. We had to come up and do our part,” said Monroe Township resident Rich Sugalski.
The first homeowner’s family released a statement Wednesday morning:
“We want to extend our deepest thanks for all the support pouring in. We’re thankful that we were unharmed and that no one in the immediate neighborhood was injured. Our thought and prayers are with the pilot of the plane. We do not have any thing further to state and we appreciate our privacy during this difficult time. Thank you for your understanding.”
One mother who lives on this block told CBS2’s Meg Baker she doesn’t know how to explain it to her two young children. She doesn’t want them to be scared of planes or random things falling from the sky.
McCormac says Schloss’ body has been removed from the wreckage.
The plane remains in the basement of the house.