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. 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.” Police said there were two sets of controls aboard a small plane that crashed in Connecticut with a flight instructor and student on board, killing one of them. The instructor pilot survived, but remains hospitalized with serious burns. Two people in a minivan were also taken to a hospital with minor injuries. 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.
One of the men on the plane, Feras M. Freitekh, is 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, CBS News has learned. 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.
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.
Police said Main Street will be closed between Willow Street Extension and Ensign Street until further notice. 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.