WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (AP) — A World War II-era bomber plane crashed in a fireball as it tried to land Wednesday at New England’s second-busiest airport, injuring at least five people aboard, officials said.
Thick, black smoke rose from the airport as emergency crews responded to the crash of the B-17 bomber at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, just north of Hartford. It wasn’t clear how many people were on board.
Five people on board were taken to Hartford Hospital, said hospital spokesman Shawn Mawhiney; he had earlier said six were taken to the hospital. He did not yet have information on their condition.
The B-17 had been trying to land when it crashed around 10 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said on Twitter. It was civilian-registered and not flown by the military, the FAA said.
The New England Air Museum is near the airport. The plane was associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its “Wings of Freedom” vintage aircraft display to Bradley International this week, airport officials said.
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 to gain altitude but not succeeding.
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.
“This is kind of shocking; it’s a loss to lose a B-17,” he said. “I mean, there aren’t very many of those left.”
Antonio Arreguin said he had parked at a construction site near the airport for breakfast when he heard an explosion. He said he did not see the plane but could feel the heat from the fire, which was about 250 yards away.
“In front of me, I see this big ball of orange fire, and I knew something happened,” he said. “The ball of fire was very big.”
A smaller explosion followed about a minute after the first blast, he said. He saw emergency crews scrambling within seconds.
The fire and smoke were out within about an hour. Flights in and out of Bradley International were suspended after the crash, and the airport was closed.
The Collings Foundation did not provide details on the crash.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley,” it said in a written statement. “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.”