Small jet plane crashes into houses in Groton, Conn., killing two people

Monday, August 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GROTON, Conn. (AP) _ A small business jet crashed into three houses Monday, setting two of them on fire, then cartwheeled into a river less than a mile short of an airport. Both people aboard the plane were killed, authorities said.

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 left homeless.

The Learjet was approaching the airport when it slammed into the homes in the Poquonnock River Bridge section of Groton.

``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.

Ross Finlayson, 17, said he saw the plane hit the houses and a riverside walkway in the residential area.

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

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 was treated at a local hospital.

``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 crash happened 20 minutes before the 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.