Connecticut plane crash likely
deliberate, motive unclear: officials
Send a link to a friend
[October 13, 2016]
By Mark Hosenball and Joseph Ax
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal
investigators on Wednesday were trying to determine why a Jordanian
flight student may have deliberately crashed a small plane in East
Hartford, Connecticut, killing himself and badly injuring an instructor
but narrowly avoiding more casualties.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said its initial
investigation indicated the crash was "the result of an intentional act"
and that the FBI would lead the probe.
The twin-engine Piper PA-34 Seneca slammed into a utility pole and burst
into flames on Tuesday afternoon across the street from the headquarters
of aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, killing Feras Freitekh and
seriously burning the instructor.
East Hartford Police Lieutenant Joshua Litwin said at a news conference
on Wednesday that he did not know who was flying the plane at the time
of the crash. The aircraft had two sets of controls, allowing either
person to pilot the plane.
The incident sparked speculation about whether Freitekh had intended to
crash the plane into a specific target, especially given how close it
came to Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies <UTX.N>. But
Litwin said it was too early to know.
"The evidence indicates that this plane crash was intentional," he told
reporters, without giving more details. "There's no clear indication as
The New York Times reported that law enforcement sources said the
instructor had told investigators that the plane was deliberately
downed. A federal law enforcement official told Reuters that the
instructor, whom the Hartford Courant identified as Arian Prevalla, had
spoken with investigators.
The Courant also reported that the two men argued and fought for control
before the crash, citing unnamed sources.
A U.S. national security official, who confirmed Freitekh's identity and
requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said law
enforcement would look into whether Freitekh had ties to terrorism. The
official said, however, that Freitekh, 28, was not known to U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration records showed Freitekh lived in Orland
Hills, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and became certified last year as
a private pilot for single-engine planes.
Police searched an apartment in Hartford where Freitekh was staying and
interviewed other flight students, the Courant newspaper reported,
citing unnamed sources.
[to top of second column]
Wreckage is removed from the scene of a twin-engine plane that
struck a utility pole and burst into flames in downtown East
Hartford, Connecticut U.S., October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle
CBS News reported that Freitekh, a Jordanian national, first entered
the United States in 2012 on a temporary student visa to attend
flight school. The network said Freitekh also went to a language
school in Toledo, Ohio.
People who said they were relatives mourned him on social media on
"Pray for him for mercy and forgiveness," one person wrote on
Facebook in Arabic, saying he was a cousin and that Freitekh died
"after a terrible accident."
The Jordanian embassy in Washington said it was monitoring the crash
and that it was "in touch with the relevant U.S. authorities on this
Freitekh and Prevalla, the owner of a local flight school, were the
only people aboard the plane when it crashed at about 3:30 p.m. EDT
(1930 GMT) on Tuesday during flight training that originated at the
Hartford-Brainard Airport, local police said.
Prevalla is being treated at the Bridgeport Hospital's burn center,
according to East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc.
No one else suffered injuries. A woman driving with her three
daughters narrowly avoided colliding with the airplane. They were
taken to a hospital and later released, Litwin said.
Calls to Prevalla's school, the American Flight Academy, went
unanswered on Wednesday. Prevalla, from Albania, founded the academy
in 2006, according to the school's website.
(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney, David Ingram and Gina
Cherelus in New York and David Shepardson and Yara Bayoumy in
Washington; Editing by Diane Craft and James Dalgleish)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.