Courtesy of the Town of East Haven
A plane crash at Tweed-New Haven Airport shortly before 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning left one person dead and one in critical condition.
The East Haven Police Department and New Haven Fire Department reported that two males were onboard the craft when it crashed in a nearby swamp. The two-man plane transmitted a distress signal shortly after it took off from Tweed-New Haven, then crashed after turning around and attempting to land, East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon. The surviving passenger was rushed to the trauma center at Yale New Haven Hospital shortly after.
The cause of the crash was unknown at the time officials addressed the press, at around 12:15 p.m. The plane was being used by the American Flight Academy in what Tim Larson, the airport’s executive director, called a “routine training exercise.”
The EHPD released recorded 911 calls reporting the crash, one of which described the plane as having done a “nose dive.”
One of the men onboard was an instructor at the academy and the other a student. Officials later identified the deceased man as Pablo Isona, 31, of East Haven. It is unclear whether Isona was the instructor or the student.
It took approximately 15 minutes for emergency officials to locate the plane 25 yards southeast of the airport’s second runway, according to Maturo, who called the swampy conditions “terrible.”
“We had some difficulty locating [the plane] initially,” said Doug Jackson, chief of the East Haven Fire Department. “Access is difficult.”
He went on to describe knee-high mud and water along with high grass in the swamp area of the crash. He said the crash was not visible from nearby roads.
Maturo said the Federal Aviation Administration would investigate the crash to determine its cause, but he indicated that it could be long until more details are confirmed. In a press release, the FAA confirmed it would launch an investigation.
Tweed-New Haven closed after the crash but reopened at approximately 1:30 p.m., airport staff told the News.
Maturo said the emergency triggered a collaborative response from several municipal response teams, including the East Haven Police and Fire Departments, the New Haven Police Department and the Branford Police Department.
The Connecticut Airport Authority and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were both at the scene, along with state police.
Mayor Toni Harp briefly spoke at the noon press conference, commending the teamwork of the multiple agencies.
“It’s a very sad occasion,” she said. “I’d also like to comment upon the action of the East Haven Police Department and their fire department and the cooperation of Branford and New Haven, and to thank them for their cooperation.”
Tweed-New Haven has been the site of several fatal crashes in its recent history. In August 2013, a small plane flying into the airport from Seattle missed the runway and crashed into two homes north of the airport, killing four, according to records from the National Transportation Safety Board. Before that, four people were killed in a December 1993 crash.
Still, Maturo said the public should not take the Wednesday incident as any indication of a risk specific to Tweed-New Haven.
“These things happen,” he said. “This is a safe airport.”
In October last year, a similar craft owned by the same flight academy crashed near Hartford-Brainard Airport, killing the student and leaving the instructor with serious injuries, according to the NTSB.
This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Feb. 23.