WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (AP/CNN) — A small plane crashed through the roof of a home Tuesday, killing the pilot and causing an explosion that set two houses ablaze in a New Jersey suburb of New York City.
No one was in the home that the Cessna 414 crashed into, but flames spread to another house, where a woman escaped injury, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said.
The plane went down not far from an elementary school at about 11 a.m., according to National Transportation Safety Board investigator Adam Gerhardt.
The crash sent flames into the air, belched smoke for hours and left neighbors thinking the earth was shaking.
Steven Smith lives around the corner from the crash site. He said he heard a plane coming in low as if it was diving.
“Then there was a real short pause for about two seconds. Then there was a massive boom that shook my whole house,” Smith said.
Gerhardt said the wreckage could take up to three days to clear from the house, whose second story the plane had nearly shorn off before becoming embedded in the basement.
He said a third home was also affected.
The flight left Leesburg, Virginia, with only the pilot aboard, before 10 a.m., authorities said. The pilot was cleared to land at the Linden Airport, roughly 4 miles from the crash, but he suddenly lost contact with air traffic control, according to Gerhardt.
Gerhardt said the pilot was flying using instrument flight rules typically used by experienced pilots when flying with reduced visibility. The weather in the area was cloudy and misty at the time of the crash.
The air traffic control tower at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport was handling the pilot’s approach Tuesday, as it regularly does for approaches to Linden Airport under instrument flight rules, Linden Airport manager Paul Dudley said.
Jerry Bartolino, a retired teacher, was at home three houses away when the plane went down. He heard a thundering crash and felt the ground shake, he said.
Bartolino heard someone screaming, “Oh my God,” and ran outside to see flames shooting up from the house, he said.
The fires were brought under control by early afternoon, the mayor said.
George Brown, another neighbor, told WCBS he saw flames from where the plane went down.
“It kind of looks like a volcano erupted,” he said.
The neighborhood of well-kept, one- and two-story houses is nestled between a golf course and an elementary school, and not far from a New Jersey Transit rail line.
The NTSB’s final report on the crash could take up to two years to complete.