TETERBORO, N.J. – A corporate jet skidded off a runway Wednesday on takeoff and hurtled across a six-lane highway during the morning rush hour, smashing into two cars and punching through the wall of a warehouse. About 20 people were taken to the hospital, including two injured in their cars.
Crew members and passengers walked or crawled from the burning wreckage after the crash at Teterboro Airport (search), a small airport about 12 miles from midtown Manhattan that caters to executive jets.
"I think everybody at this point is extremely lucky and fortunate," said acting Gov. Richard J. Codey (search).
The cause of the crash was not immediately known. The Bombardier Challenger CL-600 (search) had been chartered by Kelso & Co., a New York-based investment firm, to take company employees and guests to Chicago.
"We are relieved that all of the passengers on the plane seem healthy. We hope that the flight crew and anyone else who may have been injured in today's accident will also be all right," the company said in a statement.
All 11 people on the plane were taken to the hospital; the most seriously hurt among them was one of the pilots, who had a broken leg. One of those injured in a car was in critical condition. Five firefighters were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, and a man in the warehouse was also hurt.
"The pilot said he dragged himself out," witness Robert Sosa told WNBC-TV. "He literally crawled out like a baby, and all the other people just walked out normal."
Bruce Hicks, a spokesman for the aircraft service company that fueled the plane before the crash, said his company did not de-ice the aircraft. Hicks said the plane would have been de-iced had the pilots requested the service, which is standard procedure. Other aircraft had taken off from the airport Wednesday morning without being de-iced, he said.
Wheel tracks, plainly visible in snow, could be seen running straight off the end of the runway, through a fence and a snowbank, and then across U.S. 46.
"Usually we see them lift off, but this one just went straight and started scratching the ground. There were sparks shooting out all over the place," said Joseph Massaro, who lives nearby.
Rescue crews used a special hose nozzle to punch through the skin of the aircraft and spray fire-suppressing foam inside. The passengers were rushed to hospitals, where many had to be showered to remove jet fuel.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Greg Martin said communication between air-traffic control and the aircraft was routine before the crash. The weather was clear and wind was calm, with the temperature around 20 degrees.
A similar plane, a Canadair CL-601 Challenger, crashed in December in Colorado while trying to take off, killing a son of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and two others.