SHIRLEY, N.Y. – The pilot of a small plane that crashed onto a Long Island street appeared to pull the nose of the aircraft above a house before smashing into a residential street, according to a witness report provided Monday to an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Two people were killed and a third was injured in the crash in Shirley, on eastern Long Island, late Sunday morning. NTSB investigator Brian Rayner said Monday that much of the single-engine plane, which landed upside-down, had been destroyed by fire.
No one on the ground was injured. Neighbors raced to the scene and tried to extinguish the flames with fire extinguishers and garden hoses.
Rayner did not identify the witness, who told of hearing a "really loud" engine over his house moments before the crash. He said the nose of the Socata TB10, known as a Tobago, climbed over the house before hitting a tree and crashing into a large construction debris container on the street.
He said a preliminary investigation should take about a week, but a final report on the cause of the accident could take up to a year. "I'm not drawing any conclusions today," Rayner told reporters at an afternoon briefing. He said his focus was on gathering data, including information on whether an inspection had recently been completed on the aircraft.
The plane went down shortly after taking off from nearby Brookhaven Calabro Airport. Later Monday, the wreckage was taken from the Shirley neighborhood to the airport for further inspection. He said the engine would be disassembled and examined to determine whether mechanical failure was a factor.
Jane Unhjem, 60, of Goshen, N.Y. died several hours after being hospitalized with burns. Her husband, Erik Unhjem, 61, was listed in serious condition Monday at Stony Brook University Medical Center.
Suffolk County Police identified the second person who died as David J. McElroy, 53, of Orient, N.Y. It was not immediately clear who was piloting the plane; Rayner said two of the three people aboard the plane had pilots' licenses, but he did not identify them. Newsday reported Monday that friends of the Unhjems believed they had gone to Long Island to test the plane for possible purchase; they said Erik Unhjem was a pilot. McElroy was identified as the plane's owner in the Newsday story.
He said although much of the plane's wings, tail and cabin were destroyed by flames, the engine was "in good shape."
With a population of about 26,000, Shirley is a middle-class beach community on Long Island's south shore, about 65 miles east of Manhattan.