Deadly Plane Crash in a Connecticut Neighborhood

Bill Henningsgaard took off in his small plane from Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey with his son Maxwell on Friday morning to make the short hop to Connecticut, the latest leg of their tour of colleges. Maxwell was set to graduate in 2014, and they had flown across the country from the Pacific Northwest visiting campuses. Yale was next on the list.

On the ground in East Haven, Conn., about half a mile from Tweed New Haven Airport, a woman was at home with her two children, ages 1 and 13, going about their morning routine. The woman was in the front of the house and the children were in the back, according to the authorities.

Around 11:25 a.m., something went wrong with Mr. Henningsgaard’s multiengine turboprop aircraft above the woman’s home. Moments later, it crashed into her house on Charter Oak Avenue.

Mr. Henningsgaard, 54, and Maxwell, 17, were killed, said Mr. Henningsgaard’s brother, Blair.

The woman, whom the authorities declined to identify, escaped. Her children most likely did not.

Moments after the crash, as flames engulfed the two-story home, the woman ran out into the street, screaming for help, according to witnesses. As firefighters rushed to the scene, neighbors entered the house to search for the children, but were driven out by the smoke and the fire, bleary eyed and unsuccessful.

As it became clear that the children most likely had not survived, the woman, overwhelmed by grief and with a priest by her side, stood in the rain as dozens of emergency workers tried to control the blaze.

“We are doing everything we can for the mom,” Mayor Joseph Maturo of East Haven said. “Our hearts go out to her and her family.”

Hours after the crash, officials said they had identified only two bodies — an adult and child — in the basement and were continuing to work their way through the wreckage.

On Friday night, the house remained too unstable for the authorities to conduct a thorough search.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut said on Friday afternoon that there could be as many as five victims, but Robert Gretz, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a nighttime news conference that there could have been as many as six — three in the plane and three on the ground.

Blair Henningsgaard said that he believed only his brother and Maxwell were on the flight, but that he could not be sure.

His brother said Bill Henningsgaard, a former Microsoft executive, was an experienced and “very careful pilot,” who had been flying the plane he was in for six or seven years.

While investigators worked to determine the cause of the crash, Mr. Malloy said the pilot had aborted his first landing attempt and was circling back for a second try.

“It appears that there was a first approach,” he said. “For whatever reason, that approach was not executed.”

Mr. Gretz said at the news conference that the pilot had not made a distress call and that there was no evidence the plane had run out of fuel.

The flight from Teterboro to Tweed typically takes less than 30 minutes. While it was a rainy and windy morning, Tweed was operating normally.

Mayor Maturo said the woman was in the house with her children at the time of the crash.

“It’s total devastation in the back of the home,” he said.

Chris Dogolo, 59, was at home a few doors down from the crash site when he heard a loud explosion and rushed outside.

“There were people running down the street panicking,” Mr. Dogolo said. “A lady was screaming that there were two kids in the house.”

Several people ran into the burning home, searching for the children, he said.

“It got progressively worse,” he said. “Transformers were blowing up.”

The crash caused partial collapses in the two homes, one of which was empty, and it took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the blaze under control.

The plane, a Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B, can be configured to have 7 to 11 passenger seats.

In 2009, Mr. Henningsgaard, while flying in a single-engine plane with his mother, crashed. Neither was seriously injured.

Investigators from the transportation board arrived on the scene Friday night to take over the case. Tweed Airport remained closed, officials said.

Morgan Cianelli, who lives four blocks away from the crash site, said the neighborhood’s residents were used to hearing planes overhead.

“We could tell this plane was super low, and it was just not normal,” Ms. Cianelli said. “We had heard the engine completely give out. Like, you heard the engine over our house, and you could hear no more engine.”

The plane was still in the air when the engine noise stopped, she said, adding that there was a lapse in time before she heard the explosion.

“All of the sudden the noise from the plane was gone,” she said, “but we knew the plane was still up there.”

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