Plane crash in East Hartford appears to be intentional, motive u - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Plane crash in East Hartford appears to be intentional, motive unknown

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Investigators remained on the scene well into Wednesday morning following Tuesday's deadly plane crash. (WFXT) Investigators remained on the scene well into Wednesday morning following Tuesday's deadly plane crash. (WFXT)
Crews responded to a plane crash in East Hartford on Tuesday (Nancy Blackmer) Crews responded to a plane crash in East Hartford on Tuesday (Nancy Blackmer)
Arian Prevalla. (Facebook photo) Arian Prevalla. (Facebook photo)
Feras Freitekh. (Facebook photo) Feras Freitekh. (Facebook photo)
East Hartford police held a news conference at 11 a.m. (WFSB photo) East Hartford police held a news conference at 11 a.m. (WFSB photo)
EAST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Federal transportation investigators said Tuesday's deadly plane crash in East Hartford appears to be intentional, however they are still trying to determine the motive behind the incident. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press said a "U.S. official familiar with the investigation" said it appears to have been a case of suicide, not terrorism.

"The official says the flight instructor described the student pilot to police investigators as disgruntled about learning to be a pilot. The official says the instructor told police there was an altercation in the cockpit during their training flight, and the instructor was unable to regain control of the plane from the student pilot," the Associated Press said on Wednesday. 

East Hartford Police Lt. Josh Litwin confirmed that the crash was "intentional."

"Information indicates that this plane crash was intentional," Litwin said. "But, I want to be crystal clear the circumstances beyond that are still being investigated."

The National Transportation Safety Board issued its findings on Wednesday. As a result of the findings, it transferred the case into the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

"Who was the pilot...The circumstances that led to it being intentional. All windows are open at this point," Litwin said. "There is no clear indication as far as any motive or a source behind anything. it is still early in the investigation at this point and there is still a lot of work to be done."

Earlier in the day, police and federal investigators said "nothing is being ruled out" in the investigation.

"From a law enforcement perspective, calling [the FBI] is not unusual," Litwin said. "Now that they've arrived on scene, they are investigating. No situation is being ruled out. No circumstances are being ruled out."

Authorities said the plane has two sets of controls and it was unclear who was flying at the time of the crash. 

The ongoing investigation into the crash is a joint investigation by the FBI and NTSB in cooperation with the East Hartford Police Department, Connecticut State Police and the Federal Aviation Administration, Litwin said. 

One person, whom sources identified him as Feras Freitekh, was killed and another was hurt when the small plane crashed onto Main Street in East Hartford around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. 

Sources told Eyewitness News that Freitekh was from Jordan and was living in Connecticut to get his pilot's license. CBS is reporting Freitekh first entered the United States in 2012 on a visa as a student to fulfill a flight school course.

Sources identified the survivor as Arian Prevalla, who is the owner and instructor of the American Flight Academy. Prevalla was at the Bridgeport Burn Unit on Wednesday and was expected to be OK. 

Prevalla walked into a nearby American Eagle Federal Credit Union to ask for help. He had severe burns, according to police.

A East Hartford mother and her three daughters were in a vehicle near the crash and were traumatized by incident, according to investigators. Police said that family was released from the hospital on Wednesday. 

"I was driving and the only thing I see is the airplane come down, and tried to get out of the seat.. that's it," said Suheilly Hernandez, who added that the plane crashed about four feet from her car.

Traffic impacted by plane crash

Main Street was closed from Willow Street Extension to Ensign Street as investigators continued their work at the scene on Wednesday.

"As far as the scene here on Main Street, we anticipate that we might be able to open it as soon as later this evening," Litwin said. "It is in the final stages of the investigation and the power company will be coming in to do some updates."

Litwin said the investigation has been going very well. Transportation to the area continues to be kept at a minimum.

"Area businesses are open," Litwin said.

However, the closure has impacted several businesses in the area

"My primary goal is to return our community back to normalcy," East Hartford mayor Marcia LeClerc said. 

The wreckage of the plane was removed from the site around 4 p.m. 

For more photos from the scene just after plane crash, click here.

Investigators in Hartford have also been busy since the crash.

Deputy Chief Brian Foley confirmed that a police presence on Annawan Street in Hartford was connected to the incident.

Police said their investigation is at the Ritz Grande apartment complex located at 29 Annawan St.

Sources said the man aboard the plane who died, Freitekh, may have lived on Annawan Street.

"Many law enforcement personnel and media are present and will be visible in one of our densely populated neighborhoods. We understand the stress, impact and concern this can create on a neighborhood and community. We want to ensure our residents, they are not in danger. The scene is safe and secure. Please be aware the neighborhood may be impacted throughout the day," Foley said in a statement on Wednesday.  

Governor comments on plane crash 

Gov. Dannel Malloy said he was briefed on the investigation into the crash by the state police. 

"We refer all questions regarding the investigation to the FBI. This is an ongoing investigation and we respect the FBI's jurisdiction over this matter and will not comment on this matter," Malloy  said at a new conference on Wednesday afternoon.  

The governor said he was thinking about those impacted by the crash. 

"Our thoughts are with the family of the decease individual and the survivor and the Greater East Hartford community that received such a shock yesterday. We commend the first responders, who rushed to the scene and the law enforcement agents that continue to do their due diligence," Malloy said. 

Malloy said he understands that people are "concerned," but "has great confidence in the team on the ground."

"As a nation, we have had to adjust to this new reality, we recognize that people almost always wonder if someone meant to do us harm, but we must exercise caution without jumping to conclusions before discovering all the facts," Malloy said.  

Plane crashes near Pratt & Whitney

Litwin said the FBI was called due to the crash's proximity to Pratt & Whitney.

"The FBI was called by us initially due to the virtue of the infrastructure of the area," Litwin said. "We're located right next to Pratt & Whitney, they're in the aerospace industry and things of that nature."

The plane was on its way back to Brainard Airport in Hartford when it went down. 

Eyewitnesses said the aircraft exploded on impact. They said the crash happened in a crowded area.

Pratt & Whitney was open on Wednesday and company officials said "there is no impact to our operation here in East Hartford other than restricted traffic flow to the facility's main entrance on Main Street."

 "The safety of our employees is our top priority and we are following our security protocols," Pratt & Whitney said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Officials at Pratt & Whitney said they are "assisting authorities as needed."

"We are unable to comment further since this is an active investigation. We refer you to the appropriate authorities for additional information," the company said. 

East Hartford public school officials sent notices to parents on Tuesday to warn them that bus traffic would be delayed as they tried to get around on Wednesday morning.

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