5 killed Plane crashes on N.J. interstate – A small plane headed from New Jersey to suburban Atlanta crashed onto an interstate shortly after takeoff Tuesday, killing five people, authorities said.
Two men, one woman, two children and a dog aboard the plane died in the crash in Morristown, New Jersey, just after 10 a.m. ET, said Robert Gretz, a senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The plane, a six-seater Socata TBM700, was headed from Teterboro, New Jersey, to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in suburban Atlanta when it crashed onto Interstate 287 about 14 minutes into the flight, Gretz said.
The plane was at about 17,500 feet when “there was some discussion between the pilot and the controller of locations of icing conditions,” he said.
He told reporters Monday night the conversation seemed “routine” and was “not a distress call.”
Gretz said he did not know whether the conversation concerned a cloud that might contain ice; actual icing on the airplane; or whether the pilot was inquiring where ice might be or reporting it. “I’ve heard this thirdhand. … That’s something I need to listen to the tapes to know,” he said.
Gretz said he was not aware of any icing conditions on the ground at Teterboro that would have required the plane to be deiced.
However, he stressed that the investigation is in its infancy and it is too soon to speculate what might have caused the crash. “It’s too early to tell whether it was something mechanical or something the pilot did — we just don’t know,” he said.
Preliminary information is that the five were headed to Atlanta for a combination business-leisure trip, Gretz said.
Authorities did not release the names of those who died, pending positive identification by the medical examiner and notification of relatives.
But New York investment banking firm Greenhill & Co. reported that those on board were two of the firm’s managing directors, Jeffrey Buckalew, 45, and Rakesh Chawla, 36; Buckalew’s wife, Corinne, and their two children, Jackson and Meriwether. Ages for the children were not given.
“The plane belonged to Mr. Buckalew, an experienced pilot whose passion was flying,” the company said in a statement. “The firm is in deep mourning over the tragic and untimely death of two of its esteemed colleagues and members of Jeff’s family.”
No one on the ground was injured, although a pickup truck narrowly missed the plane, Gretz said. The debris field from the crash was spread over about a half-mile, with part of a wing and the plane’s tail found in a tree in a residential area, he said. Witnesses reported the plane was in an “uncontrolled spin” before it crashed.
A Federal Aviation Administration radar facility in New York lost radio contact with the plane, and also lost it on radar, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. The crash site was about 30 miles southeast of the Teterboro airport, Peters said.
Gretz said Monday evening he was not sure how long after the conversation regarding icing that the plane dropped off radar, saying investigators will be determining that.
The plane struck the southbound lanes of I-287, continued through a wooded median and came to rest on the northbound lanes, New Jersey State Police Lt. Stephen Jones said.
Most of the interstate was shut down after the crash, Jones said. One northbound lane and two southbound lanes were open as of Tuesday afternoon, but officials were “still trying to recover both the pieces of the plane and the remains of the victims.”
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Gretz said Monday night the wreckage recovery was halted about 6 p.m. because of darkness and would resume after Tuesday’s morning rush hour, at 9:30 a.m.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation said motorists had two of three travel lanes in each direction available for Monday evening’s rush hour.[Ai]