7 dead in World War II plane crash at Connecticut airport
At least seven people are dead after a World War II plane crashed at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on Wednesday, officials and a source have told ABC News.
The vintage Boeing B-17 crashed at 9:54 a.m. at the end of a runway while trying to land, sending plumes of smoke into the air, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Thirteen people were on board the plane: 10 passengers and three crew members, officials said. Fourteen were injured in the crash, officials said, including all of those on board and an airport employee on the ground.
Six of the injured, including three people in critical condition, were taken to Hartford Hospital, said hospital officials.
Two Simsbury, Connecticut, firefighters were on the plane and survived, the fire chief told ABC News.
Among those killed was Robert Riddell, his wife Debra told ABC News.
“Rob was the best person I’ve ever known,” Debra Riddell said in a statement to ABC News. “He was my soul mate I will miss him beyond words can ever express. … He was brilliant, loving, funny, reliable, compassionate and the best man I’ve ever known. The world lost an amazing person today.”
Tori Boykin, who said her family member, Mitch Melton, was injured in the plane crash, told ABC News he broke his arm, suffered multiple broken ribs and a bleeding liver. Melton was previously in the Army and Air Force, where he was an aviation mechanic, and was now working on the vintage plane.
“i had to leave work because it came across the news,” Boykin said. “I left work and i came back and i got in touch with the foundation that he’s a part of. And they told me that they were taking him to the hospital. And it was hard.”
“The first thing that I thought was that –when they said that there was three fatalities early on — I thought that we had lost him,” she said.
Five minutes into the flight, a problem was reported to the tower, said officials. The pilot tried to return to the runway and circle around but on touchdown the plane lost control and struck a de-icing facility, officials said.
Witness Gerald Cyr told ABC News he noticed the plane wasn’t lined up with the runway and “knew something was wrong.”
“Ten seconds after, maybe less than that, it disappeared, big puff of smoke, and it did crash,” he said.
Bradley International Airport — the second largest in New England — shut down immediately after the fiery crash. The airport reopened shortly before 2 p.m., but the runway where the accident occurred remained closed.
The same plane had an incident in 1987 when it ran off a runway in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, according to an NTSB report. Three of the 12 people on board the flight were injured.
Officials with the Collings Foundation, an educational foundation which holds the Wings of Freedom tour, said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley Airport. The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said on Twitter he’s calling for an immediate investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) “so we can get to the bottom of what happened & prevent future tragedies.”
“Vintage planes must be properly maintained & flown— & the NTSB must tell us whether this tragedy could have been prevented,” Blumenthal said.
The NTSB said it’s sending a team to the crash site.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont tweeted: “Our prayers our with the victims and their families.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., wrote on Twitter, “My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this crash.”
ABC News’ Whit Johnson, Aaron Katersky, Christine Theodorou, Jason Kuang and Alyssa Acquavella contributed to this report.