WWII-era bomber crash kills at least 7, Conn. of­fi­cial says

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Ehrmann and Dave Collins

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — A World War II-era B-17 bomber car­ry­ing 13 peo­ple crashed and burned at the Hart­ford air­port in an aborted take­off at­tempt Wed­nes­day, and a state of­fi­cial said at least seven peo­ple were killed.

The four-en­gine, pro­peller­driven plane strug­gled to get into the air and slammed into a main­te­nance shed at Bradley In­ter­na­tional Air­port as the pi­lots cir­cled back for a land­ing, of­fi­cials and wit­nesses said.

It had 10 pas­sen­gers and three crew mem­bers, authoritie­s said.

The state of­fi­cial who gave the death toll spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Con­necti­cut Pub­lic Safety Com­mis­sioner James Rovella said hours af­ter the crash that some of those on board were se­verely burned, and “the vic­tims are very dif­fi­cult to iden­tify.”

At least six peo­ple were taken to the hos­pi­tal, three of them crit­i­cally in­jured, authoritie­s said.

The re­tired, civil­ian-reg­is­tered plane was associated with the Collings Foun­da­tion, an ed­u­ca­tional group that brought its Wings of Free­dom vin­tage air­craft dis­play to the air­port this week, of­fi­cials said.

The vin­tage bomber — also known as a Fly­ing Fortress, one of the most cel­e­brated al­lied planes of World War II — was used to take his­tory buffs and air­craft en­thu­si­asts on short flights, in which they could get up and walk around the loud and windy in­te­rior.

“Right now my heart re­ally goes out to the fam­i­lies who are wait­ing,” Gov. Ned La­mont said. “And we are go­ing to give them the best in­for­ma­tion we can as soon as we can in an

hon­est way.”

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board sent a team to in­ves­ti­gate the cause of the crash.

The plane was a few min­utes into the flight when the pi­lots re­ported a prob­lem and said it was not gain­ing al­ti­tude, of­fi­cials said. It lost con­trol upon touch­ing down and struck the shed just be­fore 10 a.m. The air­plane was con­sumed by the fire, fed by the air­craft’s fuel.

The left wing and tail ap­pear to be all that re­mains of the air­plane.

Flight records from FlightAwar­e show the plane had trav­eled about 8 miles and reached an al­ti­tude of 800 feet.

One per­son on the ground was in­jured, of­fi­cials said. The air­port — New Eng­land’s sec­ond-busiest — was closed af­ter­ward but re­opened a sin­gle run­way 3 hours later.

Brian Hamer, of Nor­ton, Mas­sachusetts, said he was less than a mile away when he saw a B-17, “which you don’t nor­mally see,” fly di­rectly over­head, ap­par­ently try­ing with­out suc­cess to gain al­ti­tude.

One of the en­gines be­gan to sput­ter, and smoke came out the back, Hamer said. The plane made a wide turn and headed back to­ward the air­port, he said.

“Then we heard all the rum­bling and the thun­der, and all the smoke comes up, and we kind of fig­ured it wasn’t good,” Hamer said.

The plane is one of five that were at the air­port this week for tours and flights through Wings of Free­dom.

The same plane also crashed in 1987 at an air show near Pitts­burgh, in­jur­ing sev­eral peo­ple, the Collings Foun­da­tion said. Hit by a se­vere cross­wind as it touched down, the bomber over­shot a run­way and plunged down a hill. It was later re­paired.

Boe­ing-built B-17 Fly­ing Fortresses were used in day­light bomb­ing raids on Ger­many in the war.

AN­TO­NIO AR­REGUIN/AP

Smoke fills the sky af­ter a WW II-era plane crashed Wed­nes­day at Bradley In­ter­na­tional, north of Hart­ford.

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