Peoples Digest Online – A Learjet that had been on its way to Teterboro Airport plunged from the sky and struck two buildings in Carlstadt, N.J., Monday afternoon, causing a loud explosion and multiple fires as workers scrambled to safety and the plane disintegrated as it crashed in the borough public works parking lot.
Authorities said the plane’s two crew members appear to have been killed, while no one on the ground was injured, despite what looked like widespread carnage with flames and black smoke billowing from at least two buildings and the remnants of the plane.
“The plane is pretty much disintegrated,” Carlstadt Mayor Craig Lahullier said.
Eyewitnesses said the plane appeared to be coming in low and struck power lines before clipping at least two buildings in an industrial area of the borough. The Department of Public Works building was not struck, borough officials said, but two other buildings were damaged – with fire erupting on the roof of the National Paper & Envelope Corp. at 99 Kero Road.
Firefighters battled the multiple blazes for about 40 minutes before they were out, said a borough spokesman, Joe Orlando. He said it was nothing short of miraculous that no one was injured on the ground, given the intensity of the fires, and that an “enormous tragedy” had been averted.
Carlstadt’s deputy police chief, Thomas Berta, said that were workers evacuated from buildings “involved in the fire” and that authorities had accounted for all of the occupants “so it appears we have no one on the ground that was injured in any way.”
The Federal Aviation Administration said that the plane, a Learjet 35, which can hold up to seven people, was approaching Runway No. 1 at Teterboro at about 3:30 p.m. ET when it went down about one-quarter of a mile short of the airport.
Steve Case, founder of AOL, posted a photo of the smoke on Instagram.
It was registered to a company called A&C Big Sky Aviation, which is located at 1812, 66th St. Billings, Montana, according to an FAA database. The company could not be reached for comment Monday.
The plane had taken off from Philadelphia International Airport where it was being serviced by a company called Atlantic Aviation, a spokeswoman with the Philadelphia airport said. The company, which also has an office at Teterboro, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The crash came amid wind advisories and gusts of up to 37 mph between 3 and 4 p.m. at Teterboro, according to the National Weather Service. The airport was closed after the crash. At about 3:20 p.m., a pilot taking off from Teterboro reported wind sheer, a change in wind velocity that can affect a plane’s direction.
Alexander Lawrence, a witness who works at Pioneer Industries near the crash site, said that he hears planes headed to Teterboro all day long but that this one “was too close. It hit the corner of the building. It bounced off, and you see this ball of fire. I couldn’t believe it.”
Johanna Pulido, who works at United Paper in the building at 99 Kero Road, said she saw the plane hit power lines. “It was between our building and the DPW,” she said. “We evacuated.”
Andrew Barcia said that he saw the plane “on its side” as it flew over Route 17. “It looked like it was heading toward the airport,” he said. “I feel sorry for those people inside.”
Naeem Majors, of Brooklyn, was working at Manhattan Door when the plane hit the building in which he was working.
“We first heard the explosion and afterwards we saw that a plane had just hit the building, and we got out of there,” he said. “I left my phone, I left my glasses. We left out of the other side of the building and our cars are totaled. It’s pretty bad.”
Majors added that it could have been much worse had people been leaving at the time of the crash, with much of the damage occurring outside the building. “People usually leave around the time that it happened,” he said. “Luckily no one was in their cars or walking towards their cars.”
Orlando said the DPW building was empty as workers finished for the day about 20 minutes before the crash. He said that cars in the DPW parking lot were severely damaged.
“It’s a crazy situation,” Orlando said shortly after the crash. “It looks like a scene from a movie. I don’t know how this can be survivable.”
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco said that the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office was at the scene collecting evidence to assist the FAA. He said that the Bergen County Technical High School Teterboro campus on Route 46 was open with “support counseling for those that might need it.”
Connie Bovino, chairperson of Hackensack’s condo and co-op advisory board, said she has been concerned about low-flying planes for some time. She favors a flight path that takes planes south along the Route 17 corridor, which she said would be less hazardous.
“We’re concerned with the high-rises; we’re concerned with the hospital and the schools … they’re going over lower and lower,” Bovino said. “It’s a shame that something like this has to happen before they realize we’ve got to make changes. It’s crazy.”
In 2005, a corporate jet taking off from Teterboro skidded across a runway, crashed through a fence, careened across the six lanes of Route 46, struck a car, and slammed into a clothing warehouse. The two pilots were seriously injured, as were two occupants in the car. A cabin aide, eight passengers, and one person in the building suffered minor injuries.
According to its website, Teterboro is the oldest operating airport in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. Smaller and slower aircraft use the airport, relieving congestion at the area’s commercial airports, the website says.
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