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Small Jet Crash in Connecticut Kills Two

August 5, 2003

GROTON, Conn. (AP) _ The approaching roar of a plane tumbling out of the sky brought Ross Finlayson out of the house just in time to see a Learjet crash through the neighborhood and into the Poquonnock River.

``It did a cartwheel,″ Finlayson, 17, said. ``It exploded. It clipped over the top of that house and went right through the next house.″

Both people aboard the plane were killed when the small business jet went down Monday. Nobody on the ground was seriously hurt, although one woman was treated for minor injuries after she jumped out a window of her home, Poquonnock Bridge Fire Marshal Michael Richards said.

Thirteen people were either left homeless or told they could not return to nearby homes.

The Learjet was approaching the airport when it slammed into three houses in the Poquonnock River Bridge section of this coastal city in southeastern Connecticut.

``People were running down the street, and all I could see was blazing fire and smoke and people running up and down the street,″ said Pauleatha Glover, 55. ``It was an explosion, you know, I thought somebody had blown up the Poquonnock River Bridge.″

Richards said the plane clipped a vacant home before cutting through two others and setting them on fire. The plane broke apart and the pieces landed in the river, he said.

Police did not immediately release the names of those on board.

Gloria Aldana leaped from her burning home when the plane hit her one-story house, her husband said. ``She got panicked and jumped out the window,″ Edwin Aldana said. ``She’s doing OK.″

The Learjet went down about a half-mile from the runway at Groton-New London Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said. He said it had taken off from Farmingdale Republic Airport on New York’s Long Island.

Catherine Young, the Groton airport’s manager, said the plane was on its second approach when it went down. The National Transportation Safety Board later said authorities thought it only may have been one approach.

Searchers recovered the plane’s flight voice recorder from the water Monday afternoon and planned to take it to the NTSB offices in Washington, D.C.

The crash happened 20 minutes before the control tower opened, and airport officials were using recordings of air-to-ground communication to piece together what happened, she said.

``The pilots announced something about coming to the airport, but it was garbled,″ she said.

The FAA and state Department of Environmental Protection were on the scene.

The plane is registered to Jetpro LLC, a corporation based at New Hyde Park, N.Y.

The plane was believed to be carrying about 1,200 gallons of jet fuel, said Neil Torres, who works for the Department of Environmental Protection’s oil and chemical spill unit. He said environmental workers were placing booms around the wreckage in an effort to protect nearby oyster beds.

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