The pilot of a small vintage plane – part of a team performing at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach – was killed Wednesday night in a burning accident in a residential area in Melville, officials said.
Huntington Fire Marshal Terence McNally, who was at the scene of the accident, confirmed that the victim was the pilot of a GEICO Skytyper plane from World War II. According to city spokeswoman Lauren Lembo, he was declared dead at the scene.
The plane broke apart before it fell to the ground, officials said.
Melville's first deputy chief, David Kaplan, said the pilot, a man, was the only passenger on the plane who went down just before 2pm. along Northcote Drive.
The following fire was extinguished by the Melville Fire Rescue in about 10 minutes, Kaplan said. Photos show the plane on fire, right along the woods and the road.
"It's extremely happy that nothing was hit," Kaplan said. "Houses were about 200 feet away."
Suffolk police chief Stuart Cameron said nobody was injured on the ground.
"It was fortunate that the plane crashed in the forest area and not the residential part," said Cameron, noting the proximity to the homes. The area is flanked by a nursery and houses on one side and a grove on the other side.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it is investigating the crash of an SNJ-2 aircraft. The plane is the same type that is flown by the Skytypers. Calls made to the group on Wednesday afternoon were not returned immediately.
A record of air traffic control at the Republic Airport in East Farmingdale showed that the plane was one of the Skytypers.
"I think we just saw someone," the air traffic controller said in a video on the site ATC.net, which contains audio files uploaded by commercial pilots
On the record, several other Skytyper pilots who are still in the air at the time of the crash tell the air traffic controller that there are thick black smoke billowing fire in a forest area, but no houses were damaged.
Accountant Lou Scaglione was out for lunch when he saw a formation of five World War II aircraft. The next time he looked, there were four. Then he saw smoke over the trees.
"It's heartbreaking," said Scaglione, 53, of Deer Park. "These planes are part of Long Island, it's a shame that one of them is over there."
Mike Jewels, 22, who lives on the road from the accident, said he was on his way home from work, when he heard the loud noise of an airplane above him.
"I've demolished the block and seen all those flames and smoke," he said.
The small plane was completely surrounded by flames.
He said the plane crashed on the edge of a forest off Northcote Drive, houses are only a few hundred yards on the two-lane road.
"Under the smoke, I saw the shape of an airplane," he said.
He added : "It is frightening. You see many planes here. You never expect one to crash.
Al Alami, 21, of Queens landed with a Piper Warrior at the nearby Republic Airport in East Farmingdale when he saw the plane crash down.
"I only saw the smoke; I did not see the fire, "Alami said," but my teacher saw the flames and pointed out. "
A spokeswoman for the Republic, where the Skytypers are stationed, said they have no information about the aircraft's or
About two dozen emergency vehicles were on the scene, including police patrol cars, fire engines, an ambulance and the Republican airport fire engine.
With Robert Brodsky, Janelle Griffith and Joan Gralla