All of a sudden, the phone lines exploded.
At around 10 a.m. on Oct. 2, calls began flooding in for Shawn Mawhiney, spokesman of Hartford Hospital. As he scrambled to respond to reporters from across the country, as well as friends and family asking about their loved ones, chaos was unfolding at Bradley International Airport in the aftermath of a deadly plane crash — the first in decades.
Minutes before, a vintage World War II-era airplane carrying 13 people crashed after only about five minutes in the air, Connecticut State Police reported. The crash killed seven of those onboard, who included three crew members and ten passengers, and injured the six others, as well as a civilian on the ground. According to the report, the aircraft caught fire after colliding with a de-icing facility, and state troopers and Bradley firefighters responded to the scene. The shocking accident prompted the immediate closure of the airport.
“The unfortunate accident has left the entire Bradley International Airport deeply saddened,” Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said in a statement.
Based on records from the National Transportation Safety Board’s crash database, in 1987 the same plane was involved in another crash, but was repaired. NTSB was unavailable for comment, but is conducting an ongoing investigation into the incident.
According to Alisa Sisic, manager of marketing at Bradley, the airport was closed for around three hours, and 20 percent of flights were canceled the day of the crash. Among the victims of the crash were Ernest McCauley, the pilot, and Michael Foster, the co-pilot. Gary Mazzone of Broad Brook, Robert Riddell of East Granby, Robert Rubner of Tolland as well as David Broderick and James Roberts, both of Massachusetts, also did not survive the tragedy.
“The men and women of the Connecticut State Police extend our heartfelt sympathies to all impacted by this tragedy,” the department said in the report.
Six of the injured were transported to Hartford Hospital, and Mawhiney said the hospital considered the event to be a mass casualty situation. Because Hartford Hospital is so close to the airport, Mawhiney said, the staff drills and trains for mass casualties on a regular basis. He also said he was thankful these events are relatively uncommon, and noted the response to the crash on the part of the hospital was absolutely effective.
The hospital was unable to release information concerning the status of patients treated there. Some patients were also treated at Bridgeport Hospital and St. Francis Hospital.
“It was a very emotional, distressing, unfortunate situation,” Mawhiney said. “There were a lot of moving parts but everything went as smoothly as possible considering the circumstances.”
Mawhiney also brought up that because the situation was evolving so rapidly, it was initially difficult to provide answers to distressed family members. As the incident quickly made national news, people began calling in before some of the victims had even reached the hospital, and Mawhiney said it was tough for him to have to leave people who were simply looking for answers without complete information, even if only for a short period of time.
But despite the initial disarray, he said the hospital worked diligently throughout the day to call back everyone who reached out with inquiries.
“That was one of the most important parts that we have to do, is helping family members and friends through the process,” Mawhiney said. “They were hard conversations to have, but I was happy to help in any way.”
For Carolyne Newman ’21, the incident did raise some red flags in anticipation of her flight out of Bradley for October recess. She said that while she herself has never had any problems at Bradley, and that statistically speaking, the chances or herself being in a crash are small, the news of the accident was nevertheless unexpected and troubling.
When it happens close to home, she said, it’s a scary thing.
“It’s similar to gun violence or any other tragedy, in that it happens in the news and that’s where it should stay,” Newman said. “You never really expect it to happen anywhere close to where you are.”
Bradley International Airport is the second-largest airport in New England, and handles over six million passengers a year.
Thomas Birmingham | firstname.lastname@example.org