Multiple people are dead and others were injured after a vintage WWII aircraft crashed at Bradley International Airport Wednesday morning.
Ten people were passengers who had paid to take a short flight on the B-17, while three crew were aboard. One person on the ground was also injured as the plane came down. State officials have confirmed there have been fatalities, but so far have declined to say how many people died.
“At about 9:50, five minutes into the flight, the aircraft indicated to the tower that they were experiencing some type of problem with the aircraft,” said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority. “We did observe that the aircraft was not gaining altitude.”
He said the aircraft then attempted to return to the runway, circling the airport. But on touchdown, it lost control and struck a de-icing facility.
The B-17 was being operated by the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization, as part of its Wings of Freedom tour.
— Peter Wilson (@PetesWire) October 2, 2019
Brian Hamer was standing about a mile away from the site just after 10 a.m. He told Connecticut Public Radio he saw a plane with an engine that began to sputter.
“He just kind of made a U-turn back to the airport and then we hoped he was OK," Hamer said. "He never really climbed -- he just turned and made it back to the airport. And then we heard the big rumble and then a big cloud of smoke -- black smoke -- went up.”
Bradley was closed for more than three hours as emergency crews responded to the scene. The airport re-opened with just one operational runway at about 1:30 p.m. Airport officials said they expect continued cancelation of flights throughout the day.
Our crews are operating at an aircraft crash at Bradley airport pic.twitter.com/WP7k2tQBpB
— IAFF Local S15 (@IaffS15) October 2, 2019
Commissioner James Rovella, of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said casualties were transported to three different hospitals in the area, and that officers were working to contact family members.In addition to state police, officials from the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are on the scene. An eight-person team from the National Transportation Safety Board will take the lead in investigating the cause of the crash, according to Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Governor Ned Lamont took part in a press conference at the airport.
“Right now my heart really goes out the families,” he said. “We’re going to give them the best information we can, as soon as we can in an honest way. These are all members of our Connecticut family. Our hearts are broken for you right now. You’re in our prayers”
Several of our state agencies, including @CT_STATE_POLICE and @CTDEEPNews, remain on scene responding to the accident at @Bradley_Airport. Such an unfortunate situation with an historic aircraft. Our prayers are with everyone who was on board. https://t.co/Zzn354CC6F
— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) October 2, 2019
Six of the injured were transported to Hartford Hospital, one by Lifestar helicopter. Medical staff described three as critically ill, two moderately injured and one minimally injured. Two were later transferred to Bridgeport Hospital’s burns unit.
“We train for this, this is why we’re here,” said Dr. Ken Robinson, Hartford Hospital’s chief of emergency medicine. “And all our teams are ready for this, because we train for these types of multiple casualty incidents.”
The FAA confirmed that the crash happened at the end of Runway 6, while the aircraft was attempting to land. The agency also said the aircraft is civilian registered and not flown by the military.
Sen. Blumenthal said he’s been in touch with the NTSB as they begin their investigation of the crash site.
“The tragedy that happened here may be a source of lessons for others who are still flying these B-17s,” he said. “It’s a vintage airplane and it needs to be properly maintained.” Blumenthal noted it’s not yet clear if maintenance issues contributed to the crash. The B-17 was one of 18 in the country registered with the FAA to be flight worthy.
The plane was one of five vintage aircraft at Bradley as part of the Wings of Freedom tour, organized by the Collings Foundation. The exhibit was open to the public, and the foundation offered public flights in the planes.
"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," the foundation said in a statement. "The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known."
A video produced by the Collings Foundation appears to show the same plane that was involved in this morning's crash.
Additional reporting by Frankie Graziano and Ryan Lindsay
This post has been updated