Small plane crashes, leaving pilot dead, houses ablaze

U.S. & World

Woodbridge firefighters work to extinguish the scene of a plane crash at a home in Woodbridge, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (AP) — A small plane crashed and exploded in a residential neighborhood in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City Tuesday morning, leaving its pilot dead and setting two houses on fire.

White smoke still rose in the afternoon from the house in the Colonia section of Woodbridge Township where a twin-engine Cessna 414 went down — just several hundred yards from Claremont Avenue Elementary School — at 11 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.

No one was in that home, whose second floor was nearly completely cut off, but flames spread to another house, where a woman escaped injury, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said. He does not believe anyone on the ground was injured.

John Hagerty, a spokesman for the township, said the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the unidentified male pilot was killed in the crash.

Steven Smith lives around the corner from the crash site. He said he heard a plane coming in low as if it was diving.

“Then there was a real short pause for about two seconds. Then there was a massive boom that shook my whole house,” Smith said.

Jerry Bartolino, a retired teacher, was at home three houses away when the plane went down. He heard a thundering crash and felt the ground shake, he said.

Bartolino heard someone screaming, “Oh my God,” and ran outside to see flames shooting up from the house, he said.

George Brown, another neighbor, told WCBS he saw flames from where the plane went down.

“It kind of looks like a volcano erupted,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

The flight had left Leesburg, Virginia, with only the pilot aboard, authorities said. It had been headed to Linden Airport, about 4 miles from the crash site.

The wreckage, and presumably the pilot, remained lodged in the basement of the house the plane hit, authorities said.

The weather in the area was cloudy and misty at the time of the crash.

The fires have been brought under control, the mayor said.

The neighborhood of well-kept, one- and two-story houses is nestled between a golf course and an elementary school, and not far from a New Jersey Transit rail line.

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