Two bodies found after plane crash in Conn.
A firefighter surveys the scene of a small plane crash, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in East Haven, Conn. The multi-engine, propeller-driven plane plunged into a working-class suburban neighborhood near Tweed New Haven Airport, on Friday. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham) Purchase photo reprints »
EAST HAVEN, Conn. — The bodies of the pilot and a child have been found after an airplane crashed into two homes Friday morning while on approach to Tweed-New Haven Airport, officials said. It was unknown how many people were on the plane.
In a press conference Friday night, a National Transportation Safety Board official said there are likely four to six victims of the crash, two or three that were in one of the homes and two or three that were on the plane.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said Friday afternoon that two children, ages 1 and 13, were in one of the houses and as many as three people might have been in the plane.
The Daily Astorian newspaper of Oregon reported Friday that the pilot was Bill Henningsgaard, who was traveling with his son, according to Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen. The newspaper said Van Dusen was with the Henningsgaard family, who live in the Seattle area, on Friday.
When reached by phone, Henningsgaard’s brother, Blair Henningsgaard, said he hadn’t received official confirmation but suspects his brother and nephew were aboard the plane that crashed into two houses in East Haven. “We have no reason to believe it was anybody else’s plane,” he told The Seattle Times.
Blair Henningsgaard is city attorney for Astoria, a town about 180 miles south of Seattle.
A statement posted to the website for Social Venture Partners in Seattle, where Bill Henningsgaard worked, said that he and his son, Maxwell Henningsgaard, were killed in a tragic plane crash. The father and son were on a trip to the East Coast to visit colleges, according to the statement.
Officials in East Haven said the children’s mother was in her house on Charter Oak Avenue at the time the plane crashed into it, but escaped. The crash also damaged a neighboring house on Charter Oak Avenue.
Residents up and down the street gave mixed information about the family members of the house where the mother escaped; the family was a relatively recent arrival to the neighborhood.
By Friday afternoon, an official with the state medical examiner’s office arrived at the scene.
“We are doing everything we possibly can for the mom,” East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. said. “Our hearts go out to her and her family.”
Maturo said Friday afternoon that the bodies of the pilot and a child had been located. On Friday night, a tanker arrived to begin pumping water out of the basement of the home where the children had been living. A state Urban Search-and-Rescue team also arrived at the scene.
The plane was inverted, with the left wing in one house and the right wing in the other, said Robert Gretz of the NTSB. Fifty to 60 percent of the plane was consumed by fire after the crash.
Connecticut officials said Henningsgaard was set to land on Tweed’s Runway 2 on “instrument landing,” but missed the first approach and attempted a second before the crash.
The cloud ceiling at the time of the crash was a mere 900 feet above the ground, said FoxCT meteorologist Rachel Frank. The visibility for a landing plane would have been severely limited, she said. A light rain was falling.
Officials said there was no distress call from the plane, which the Federal Aviation Administration described as a Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B, a multi-engine turbo prop aircraft. It originated from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The plane is registered to Ellumax Leasing LLC in Washington state; the company had no comment.
NTSB, state and local agencies, and representatives from both the plane’s engine and frame manufacturers will be at the scene of the crash Saturday, Gretz said.
On Friday, a number of neighbors at the scene in East Haven said the sound of the plane’s engine stopped moments before the crash.
Robert Mallory, an airplane mechanic who lives nearby on Haines Street, said Friday that he knew the plane was in trouble from the sound of its motor. “It just didn’t sound right,” he said. “It sounded like someone stuck a stick in a lawn mower. It just stopped.”
After the plane crashed, Mallory jumped in his car and raced to Charter Oak Avenue, where he saw the houses on fire. The front lawns were strewn with pieces of airplane, and a woman was outside. “The woman was screaming about her children,” he said. “They didn’t get out.”
Mallory said that several people entered the burning house, trying to save the children.
Dennis Karjanis of New Haven said he was driving down Charter Oak Avenue with his nephew when they saw the plane spiraling toward the ground.
A moment later they arrived in front of the house. As Karjanis dialed 911 on his phone, his nephew and two others tried to go into the house.
The mother was outside.
“The woman was on the front lawn screaming and yelling in English and Spanish,” he said. “She was pleading, ‘Please get my kids.’”
Three men, including Karjanis’ nephew, went into the house but could not get far. The aircraft had ripped up the inside of the house.
Within a minute the airplane began to burn.
“The plane exploded so quickly there was no hope,” Karjanis said.
Frank Diglio said he was driving by the crash site and saw the woman crying. Diglio, 55, said he and another man entered the house and tried digging through the rubble to find the children, but were forced to leave after 10 minutes when the fire at the house became intense.
“The plane was burning slow and then it started really burning,” Diglio said. “The fire engines arrived in like 10 minutes. They came real quick and they told us all to move. The house got really out of control.”
Diglio said he was hoping to rescue the children.
“I’m crying now because I couldn’t find them,” he said.
Debbie Brunelle of Hughes Street, a block from Charter Oak, said she, her husband Steve, who is an East Haven firefighter, and their son Stephen Jr., a volunteer firefighter, were home when the plane crashed.
“I heard this plane come in, like I always do,” she said. “All of a sudden it stopped. I should have kept hearing it, and I heard a bang. It sounded like something would have fallen off. My son and husband took off.”
Brunelle said they drove around the block to the scene, where they heard a woman screaming. “When I got down there I heard her. She was saying two kids were in the house,” she said. “When we got down there the plane was exploding. You could just hear explosions and see the orange fire. It was horrific.”
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Henningsgaard, a resident of Medina, Wash., worked for about 14 years at Microsoft in various sales and marketing roles, including as vice president of sales for the Western U.S., Australia and New Zealand, the Seattle Times reported Friday night.
After leaving Microsoft, he became heavily involved in local social service and philanthropy efforts, helping start Eastside Pathways, a nonprofit based in Bellevue, Wash., which works to support the area’s youth from “cradle to career,” the newspaper reported. He has also served as board member and past board chair of both Youth Eastside Services and Social Venture Partners, a Seattle-based organization that seeks to connect philanthropists and strengthen nonprofits.
He was married with three children.