EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH-WWLP) — Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board say that their investigation has concluded that the crash of a small plane on Main Street in East Hartford, Connecticut was intentional. Click here to view the NTSB’s statement on the crash investigation.
The New York Times identifies the deceased passenger as 28-year-old Feras Freitekh, while 22News’ sister station WTNH has identified the flight instructor as Arian Prevalla. The Times is reporting that the instructor told federal investigators this crash was no accident. Prevalla was taken to Bridgeport Hospital to be treated for burns and other injuries, but expected to survive.
The Piper PA 34 aircraft was on final approach to land at Hartford-Brainard Airport. Instead of making it to the airport, however, the plane crashed in the 400 block of Main Street in East Hartford. Aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney is located right nearby at 400 Main Street.
In a news conference late Wednesday morning, East Hartford Police Lt. Josh Litwin said that he could not comment on any possible cause of the crash, or statements made by the survivor about it. He said that the FBI is assisting with the investigation, and that they were called-in because of the crash’s proximity to Pratt & Whitney.
Police said they don’t know which man was in control of the plane at the time of the crash. Lt. Litwin said, “Being a twin engine aircraft, there’s two sets of controllers in such a plane, and either one of the two occupants at any time have the ability to control that plane. As to who was specifically at the controls at the time of impact, I do not have that.”
The aircraft missed a van with a mother and three daughters inside by inches, clipping an electrical pole, and cartwheeling down the street before coming to a complete stop. Investigators are currently trying to figure out the cause of the crash. The mother and her children were released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
Lt. Litwin said that the area where the crash happened was very busy on Tuesday, especially during the late afternoon when the crash took place, and that therefore it is amazing there were not any more casualties. Investigators cleared the Main Street area Wednesday evening.
As investigators continue to search for a motive, 22News went to the Northampton Airport on Wednesday to find out what background checks student pilots go through.
Airport Manager Rich MacIsaac told 22News U.S. citizens need to provide a form of ID; non-U.S. citizens undergo a background check with the TSA. Visas, passports, and fingerprints are checked to make sure they’re not on the “no fly list” or the terrorist watch list.
The student pilot in Tuesday’s crash had a different kind of visa. It’s called an M-1, where someone specifically applies for a visa to learn how to fly in the U.S.
Macisaac said, “That person would have applied for a visa to come to the U.S. for flight training, and would have to specify in their paperwork that they’re going to come to the flight school in Hartford, CT, and that’s really the only place that they can go.”
Background checks take about 3-4 weeks. MacIsaac said foreigners apply for M-1 visas because an American pilot’s license allows them to fly more places around the world.