The plane accident that killed four people in a Connecticut neighborhood was not the first crash for the pilot, a former Microsoft executive who was taking his teenage son on a tour of East Coast colleges.
The pilot, Bill Henningsgaard, was killed along with his son, Maxwell, and two children who were in a house struck by the small propeller-driven plane on Friday.
Their bodies were all recovered from the crash scene.
East Haven police on Saturday released the names of the crash victims, including Henningsgaard, 54, of Medina, Washington; his 17-year-old son; 13-year-old Sade Brantley and one-year-old Madisyn Mitchell, who lived in the East Haven home hit by the plane.
US National Transportation Safety Board investigator Patrick Murray on Saturday said the plane was upside down when it struck a house at about a 60o angle.
He said the pilot was making his first approach to the airport and did not declare an emergency before the crash.
After removing the wreckage and before analyzing any data, Murray said at a news conference in New Haven: “We don’t have any indication there was anything wrong with the plane.”
A preliminary board report on the crash is expected within 10 business days.
Henningsgaard, a highly regarded philanthropist, was flying a small plane to Seattle, Washington, in 2009 with his mother when the engine quit. He crash-landed on the Columbia River.
“I forced myself to confront that fact that the situation any pilot fears — a mid-air emergency, was happening right then, with my mother in the plane,” he wrote in a blog post days later.
In the Connecticut crash, Henningsgaard was bringing the 10-seater plane, a Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B, in for a landing at Tweed New Haven Airport in rainy weather just before noon when the plane struck two small homes, engulfing them in flames. The aircraft’s left wing lodged in one house and its right wing in the other.
As the children’s mother yelled for help from the front lawn, several people in the working-class neighborhood raced to rescue the children, but they were forced to turn back by the fire.
A neighbor, David Esposito, was among those who raced to help the children’s mother.
He said he ran into the upstairs of the house, where the woman believed her children were, but he could not find them after frantically searching a crib and closets. He returned downstairs to search some more, but he dragged the woman out when the flames became too strong.
Henningsgaard was a member of Seattle-based Social Venture Partners, a foundation that helps build up communities. The foundation extended its condolences to his wife and two daughters.
On Saturday night, dozens of people turned out for a vigil at Margaret Tucker Park to honor those who died in the Connecticut crash. Among those in attendance was the woman who lost her two children.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said in a statement that the vigil was a “profound statement of the ties that bind East Haven and our entire state together as one community.”
“When a family suffers an unimaginable tragedy, we come together and pray that they have the strength they need to carry on,’’ Malloy said.
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