Carlstadt, New Jersey: A jet struck a building and crashed while attempting to land at a small airport near New York City Monday, killing two crew members and sparking a fire that sent thick, black smoke spewing into the air, authorities said.
Police said no passengers were aboard the Learjet 35 when it went down around 3.30pm 400 metres from the runway at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey in a densely populated residential and industrial area. No one on the ground was reported to have been injured.
Emergency responders worked for more than an hour to extinguish the blaze, which left a smoldering wreckage of cars in the parking lot in the industrial area.
Mayor Craig Lahullier said all town employees already had left for the day before the plane crashed next to its Department of Public Works building.
“I tell ya, it’s a miracle,” he said. “Thank God the guys were out of there, that’s all I can say.”
Town spokesman Joe Orlando said pieces of melted engine could be seen in the charred wreckage, along with wheels and part of the fuselage. Witnesses said they heard loud popping noises, apparently from car tires exploding in the heat and flames.
Orlando had left the public works building about 15 minutes before it hit. When he returned, he saw the plane’s engines on the ground.
“If this had happened 20 minutes earlier, people would have been at their cars,” he said. “That was the first thing I thought of: ‘I was just right there.’
“You could see the fan blades, the landing gear. Car tires were blown off, there were explosions. It’s something out of a movie.”
Mark Dykstra, who lives across the street from the crash site, told NJ.com he felt the impact of the crash.
“We were sitting in our building, and we felt the whole building shake,” he said. “We went outside, and there was black smoke. Thick black smoke.”
Steve Case, an entrepreneur and co-founder of AOL who was aboard another plane at the airport waiting to take off, wrote in an Instagram post that the plane appeared to have missed a turn.
A Carlstadt police spokesman said the jet appeared to be listing to its side before it crashed.
The National Weather Service warned of strong winds with gusts up to 72 kph just before the plane went down. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The jet had flown from Teterboro to Bedford, Massachusetts, early Monday morning. It then flew to Philadelphia later Monday morning before leaving for Teterboro around 3pm.
Teterboro, which is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the oldest operating airport in the New York City area. Situated in a densely populated area just north of MetLife Stadium where the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants play, it is the scene of dozens of takeoffs and landings each day and is a favorite landing spot for corporate and other luxury jets.
The airport was the scene of a 2005 crash when a corporate jet failed to take off, crossed a busy highway and slammed into a warehouse. There were no fatalities, but more than 20 people suffered injuries.
In 2009, a plane taking off from Teterboro crashed into a sightseeing helicopter over the Hudson River, killing all nine people in the two crafts. A federal investigation later determined errors by an air traffic controller at the airport who was distracted by a personal phone call set the stage for the crash.