No hint of emergency before small plane crashed upside down

Posted at 4:44 PM, Aug 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-10 18:44:47-04

By Greg Botelho


(CNN) — The pilot didn’t indicate any issues before a turboprop plane slammed upside down into an East Haven, Connecticut, neighborhood, a federal investigator said Saturday.

Authorities have not detailed how many died as a result of the crash that damaged two homes, or the victims’ identities. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has said as many as five people — including three on the plane — were killed.

While saying he was still awaiting word on IDs from the medical examiner, National Highway Transportation Safety Board investigator Patrick Murray did offer details Saturday on what authorities believe happened.

The pilot — who had a certificate allowing him to fly the multi-engine plane — told the control tower that yes, he could see the runway, and didn’t hint at an emergency before transmissions suddenly cut off, according to Murray. It was raining at the time, though the NTSB investigator did not say whether it’s been determined weather played any role.

“We don’t have any preliminary indication that anything was wrong with that plane,” Murray said.

What they do believe is that the aircraft came in inverted and nose down at a 60- to 70-degree angle when it crashed into the side of a home about a half-mile from Tweed New Haven Airport. Before that impact, the plane approached at allowable altitude level for landing in that area, the investigator said.

Murray stressed there’s still much more to be done, including ideally piecing the aircraft back together and looking for on-board equipment that may provide telling details such as speed and altitude.

Saturday’s first focus was getting the neighborhood back to normal, including cleanup and recovery operations, Murray said.

The Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B was registered to Bill Henningsgaard, who had worked for Microsoft for 14 years including as vice president of sales for the western United States, Australia and New Zealand. It took off from New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport on Friday morning and crashed while approaching the southern Connecticut airport around 11:25 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

There’s every reason to believe that Henningsgaard and his son were on board the plane when it went down, Bill’s brother, Blair Henningsgaard, told CNN.

Two children — ages 1 and 13 — in one house are presumed dead, East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. said. The other damaged house was unoccupied.

The fuselage entered one of the homes, according to Malloy. The right wing of the airplane could be seen in the smoldering wreckage of one house, and the left wing was in another house.

Video from CNN affiliate WTNH showed smoke rising from a heavily damaged house in East Haven, and what appeared to be the tail of a plane nearby.

Fire consumed both houses, initially preventing firefighters from searching for victims, East Haven Fire Chief Douglas Jackson said Friday.

Maturo said the children were in one house with their mother when the plane struck shortly before 11:30 a.m. The mother escaped, he said.

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

CNN’s Aaron Cooper, Lauren Russell, Jason Hanna, Chelsea J. Carter, Kevin Conlon and Cristy Lenz contributed to this report.

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