(Reuters) - A World War Two-era B-17 bomber trying to make an emergency landing at an airport near Hartford, Connecticut, crashed and burned on Wednesday, killing seven people on board and closing the airport for several hours, authorities said.
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress took off from Bradley International Airport on Wednesday morning and the crew contacted the air traffic control tower five minutes later to report a problem, National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference.
During the crew’s attempt to land back at the airport, the plane struck stanchions near a runway and careened across a grassy area and a taxiway before striking a de-icing facility, said Homendy, whose agency sent a 10-member team to investigate the crash.
Rescue crews from numerous emergency response agencies raced to the scene where a plume of thick, black smoke billowed skyward after the crash.
Seven people died in the crash and six others, including a worker in the de-icing station, were treated for injuries ranging from minor to critical, James Rovella, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, told the news conference.
A total of 13 people were on board the plane, including three crew members, Rovella said.
The names of the seven people who died have not been released pending notification of all the victims’ families. All the victims were adults, Rovella said.
Some people on the plane opened an escape hatch and helped others get out, he said.
“During the course of the next coming days, you’re going to hear about some heroic efforts from some of the individuals that were in or around that plane,” he said.
The airport, located in the town of Windsor Locks, was closed for about 3-1/2 hours after the crash.
The plane was operated by the Massachusetts-based Collings Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation and public display of automotive and aviation-related history.
“The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known,” the foundation said in a statement.
The vintage plane was one of only 18 B-17 aircraft still operating in the United States.
“There’s a real need for scrutiny and oversight if these planes are going to continue flying,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, told an earlier news conference.
Reporting by Peter Szekely and Maria Caspani in New York, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney
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