Authorities Probe N.J. Plane Crash

Passengers and crew members of a corporate jet that skidded off a runway and roared across a six-lane highway managed to walk or crawl from the fiery wreckage, and authorities expressed amazement that no one was killed.

About 20 people were taken to hospitals, including two injured in their cars, after the crash Wednesday at Teterboro Airport (search), about 12 miles from midtown Manhattan.

"I think everybody at this point is extremely lucky and fortunate," acting Gov. Richard J. Codey (search) said.

The jet left a trail of destruction just seconds after a crew member said, "Discontinue takeoff." The aircraft smashed into two cars on the highway and came to rest with its nose in the wall of a warehouse.

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, James Dinnall, 66, remained in critical condition Thursday morning. Five firefighters and a man in the warehouse also were hurt.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. The Bombardier Canadair Challenger CL-600 (search) had been chartered by Kelso & Co. (search), a New York-based investment firm, to take company employees and guests to Chicago.

Investigators said there was no indication of trouble on the cockpit voice recorder until either the pilot or co-pilot said, "Discontinue takeoff."

"The crew made a decision to discontinue takeoff. There was no indication why. The tape ends with the impact," the National Transportation Safety Board's (search) Deborah Hersman said Thursday morning.

Investigators walked the length of the 6,013-foot runway but found no spilled fuel or debris or any evidence that the plane's wings or tail struck the pavement, Hersman said.

The plane's flaps and thrust reversers were properly positioned, she said.

Investigators hope to speak Thursday with the pilot and co-pilot, both of whom were hospitalized. They both were listed in fair condition Thursday morning, said Peggy Schunk, a spokeswoman at Hackensack University Medical Center (search).

The airport and adjacent highway were open Thursday morning. Investigators had covered the airplane, still lodged in the warehouse, with a black tarp.

On Wednesday, 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.

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 because the pilots did not request it. Other aircraft had taken off from the airport Wednesday morning without being de-iced, he said.

Federal Aviation Administration (search) 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 (search) and two others.

Kelso & Co. declined to identify the five employees and three guests on board. It issued a statement expressing relief the passengers survived, adding, "We hope that the flight crew and anyone else who may have been injured in today's accident will also be all right."