Two pilots among 7 killed in B-17 crash in Connecticut

  • FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2019 file photo, B-17 pilot, Ernest "Mac" McCauley lands the B-17 flying fortress "Nine O Nine" during the Wings of Freedom Tour at the Hazleton Regional Airport in Hazleton, Pa. McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, Calif., and his co-pilot were among seven people killed when the bomber crashed and burned Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. (Aimee Dilger/The Times Leader via AP, File) Aimee Dilger

  • In this aerial image taken from video, emergency crews respond to where a World War II-era bomber B-17 plane crashed at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (WFXT Boston 25 News via AP)

  • This undated photo provided by Daniel Mazzone shows his father Gary Mazzone, of East Windsor, Conn., who was among those killed in the crash of a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. Mazzone, a former police officer and an insurance analyst, was 60. (Daniel Mazzone via AP) Daniel Mazzone

  • In this still image from video, members of the National Transportation Safety Board walk near the tail in the wreckage of a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., that crashed there Wednesday. (AP Photo/Joseph Frederick) Joseph Frederick

  • In this photo taken June 2, 2018 photo, people look over the Nine-O-Nine, a Collings Foundation B-17 Flying Fortress, at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, Calif. A B-17 vintage World War II-era bomber plane crashed Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, just outside New England's second-busiest airport, and a fire-and-rescue operation was underway, official said. Airport officials said the plane was associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its "Wings of Freedom" vintage aircraft display to Bradley International Airport this week in Windsor Locks, Conn. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) Rich Pedroncelli

  • Emergency crews respond to where a World War II-era bomber B-17 plane crashed at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant via AP) Kassi Jackson

  • A fire-and-rescue operation is underway where World War II-era bomber plane crashed at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. A fire with black smoke rose from near the airport as emergency crews responded. The airport said in a message on Twitter that it has closed. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Jessica Hill

  • In this photo released via Twitter by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB investigator-in-charge Bob Gretz, left, walks Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, with NTSB colleagues at the scene of a World War II-era bomber plane that crashed Wednesday at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

  • This undated photo provided by Debra Riddell, show her with her husband Robert Riddell, left, of East Granby, Conn. Robert Riddell was among those killed Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, when a World War II-era bomber plane crashed at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. (Debra Riddell via AP) .

  • This image taken from video provided by National Transportation Safety Board shows damage from a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane that crashed Wednesday at Bradley International Airport, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 in Windsor Locks, Conn. The plane crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble on takeoff Wednesday morning from Bradley International Airport. (NTSB via AP)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2019 file photo, B-17 pilot, Ernest "Mac" McCauley sits in the cockpit after landing at Hazleton Regional Airport for The Wings of Freedom Tour in Hazle Township, Pa. McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, Calif., and his co-pilot were among seven people killed when the bomber crashed and burned Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. (Warren Ruda/Hazleton Standard-Speaker via AP, File)/Hazleton Standard-Speaker via AP) Warren Ruda

  • In This July 1, 2019 photo, Ernest "Mac" McCauley, a veteran pilot who volunteers with the Collings Foundation, works on one of the nine-cylinder radial engines on a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber on display at the Spokane International Airport in Spokane, Wash. McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, Calif., and his co-pilot were among seven people killed when the bomber crashed and burned Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. (Jesse Tinsley/The... JESSE TINSLEY

Published: 10/7/2019 12:54:09 PM

A pilot with more than 7,000 hours of experience flying a B-17 and his co-pilot were among seven people killed when the bomber crashed and burned at a Connecticut airport last week.

Pilot Ernest McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, California, had flown for over 20 years with the educational group that owned the World War II-era plane and was also its safety officer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane carrying 13 people crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble on takeoff Wednesday morning from Bradley International Airport. Five passengers were killed along with McCauley and the co-pilot, Michael Foster, 71, of Jacksonville, Florida, according to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

The plane had been in New Hampshire offering flights in Laconia and Nashua the week before it crashed.

Investigators have begun securing evidence, including the engine in which the pilot had reported a problem, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said. As part of the investigation, she said, they also will look into witness reports that work was being done on one or two of the engines prior to takeoff. The plane had last been through a major inspection in January 2019, she said.

Among the passengers killed was Gary Mazzone, 60, of East Windsor, who was a history and military buff, according to his son, Daniel Mazzone. He didn’t know of his father’s plans to ride the B-17, he said, but knew why he would be interested.

“I think he just wanted to see what it was like to be in the back of a B-17,” Daniel Mazzone said. “He loved World War II. He loved people who served this country in any capacity.”

Mazzone, a father of three children and two stepdaughters, retired in January as a prosecutor’s office inspector and previously was a Vernon police officer for 22 years.

“We’re all very sad ... and we’re very sad for his family,” Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said. “He was a good investigator. He was a good inspector. And he was a very good and helpful colleague.”

The wife of Robert Riddell, an insurance company analyst from East Granby, Connecticut, said she was devastated by the loss of her husband. Robert Riddell had posted a photo from inside the plane just before takeoff.

Debra Riddell was at the airport herself and watched with dread as the plane struggled.

“As soon as it fell behind the hangar, I just had this really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just sensed that that plane was going to go down. I knew it, was certain of it,” she said.

The other passengers killed in the flight were James Roberts, 48, of Ludlow, Massachusetts; David Broderick, 56, of West Springfield, Massachusetts; and Robert Rubner, 64, of Tolland, Connecticut.

The flight engineer Mitchell Melton, 34, of Dalhart, Texas, survived with injuries. Five other passengers on the plane were injured along with Andrew Sullivan, 28, an airport employee who was on the ground near the site of the accident.

Bridgeport Hospital officials said that one survivor who arrived in serious condition was upgraded Thursday to fair condition, and that two others there were still in fair condition. All three suffered burns and broken bones.

One patient injured in the crash remained at Hartford Hospital, officials said.

Chief Master Sgt. James Traficante, an airman with the Connecticut National Guard who was aboard the B-17 bomber helped other passengers escape the flames by using his fire-resistant gloves to open a hatch, officials said.

The airman has training in handling emergencies on aircraft and had brought his military-issued gloves on the flight, according to the Guard. Traficante was treated at a hospital and has been recovering at home.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragic accident,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general of the Connecticut National Guard.

The retired, civilian-registered plane was associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its Wings of Freedom vintage aircraft display to the airport this week, officials said.

The vintage bomber – also known as a Flying Fortress, one of the most celebrated Allied planes of World War II – was used to take history buffs and aircraft enthusiasts on short flights, during which they could get up and walk around the loud and windy interior.




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