NTSB: Deadly Conn. plane crash was likely intentional
EAST HARTFORD, Ct. — The deadly crash of a small plane that struck a utility pole near the Connecticut River in East Hartford appears to have been intentional, according to investigators and the surviving witness. While officials are saying the crash was not an accident, there have been no announcements about who was in control when the plane went down, nor why the plane may have been brought down.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board announced it had turned over the investigation of the crash to the FBI because their probe so far “indicates the crash is the result of an intentional act.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy said on Wednesday that the situation concerned him.
“As a nation, we have had to adjust to this new reality, we recognize that people almost always wonder if someone meant to do us harm, but we must exercise caution without jumping to conclusions before discovering all the facts,” Malloy said.
Police said there were two sets of controls aboard the plane that crashed around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and left the flight instructor with serious burns and the student on board dead. Two people in a minivan were also taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
The instructor pilot remains hospitalized with serious burns. CBS Hartford affiliate WFSB reports that sources identified him as Arian Prevalla.
The deceased has been identified to both CBS News and WFSB as Feras M. Freitekh, a Jordanian national who first entered the U.S. in 2012 on a temporary student M1 visa to fulfill a course of study for flight school. At some point his status changed to an F1 visa, and he went to a language school in Toledo, Ohio. It then went back to an M1 visa.
East Hartford police Lt. Joshua Litwin told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t know who was controlling the plane when it crashed on a road.
East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc said Wednesday that the survivor of the crash near a military jet-engine manufacturer told authorities that it was intentional. Leclerc cautioned that the information has not been confirmed.
East Hartford police asked the FBI to assist the investigation because it happened near Pratt & Whitney, which makes military and commercial jet engines. Chief Scott Sansom called the jet engine maker “critical infrastructure.”
“The path that the plane took could have been much worse. So we’re very fortunate in that sense,” Sansom said.
The Hartford Courant reports that the Cessna took off from Hartford’s Brainard Airport on Tuesday with a student pilot and an instructor on board. It struck a utility pole in East Hartford and crashed around 4 p.m., bursting into flames.
The Piper PA 34 twin-engine plane crashed on Main Street in East Hartford at around 3:30 p.m., according to the deputy police chief. Main Street was shut down between Brown Street and Ensign Street. Drivers were being asked to avoid the area, CBS affiliate WFSB reports.
Two people were in a nearby car when the plane crashed on Main Street, police said. Authorities said the car occupants were traumatized from the crash and were taken to the hospital. The car they were in was never hit by the plane.
Officials said the plane originated from a local flight school. The Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft was on final approach to a runway at Brainard Airport.
On Tuesday evening, police said the surviving occupant of the plane is expected to survive. He is awake and speaking with investigators.
“As far as the occupants of the plane, he is expected to survive. He is cooperating with investigators he’s actually speaking with detectives as part of this investigation as ongoing,” said East Hartford Police Lt. Josh Litwin.