Cleanup, containment of firefighting foam continues following deadly vintage plane crash

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Cleanup, containment of firefighting foam continues following deadly vintage plane crash

WINDSOR LOCKS, CT (WFSB) - Environmental officials said cleanup and containment efforts of firefighting foam continued on Monday, less than a week after seven people were killed in a vintage plane crash at Bradley International Airport.

The plane, which is registered as a B-17G, crashed into a de-icing facility just before 10 a.m. on Wednesday and erupted into flames.

The victims

In the crash, seven people were killed and several others were injured.

On Thursday, police released the names of those who died:

  • Ernest McCauley, 75 - Pilot, from Long Beach, CA
  • Michael Foster, 71 - Co-Pilot, from Jacksonville, FL
  • David Broderick, 56 - passenger from West Springfield, MA
  • Gary Mazzone, 66, - passenger from Broad Brook, CT
  • James Roberts, 48 - passenger from Ludlow, MA
  • Robert Riddell, 59 - passenger from East Granby, CT
  • Robert Rubner, 64 - passenger from Tolland, CT

There were 13 people aboard the plane. Three of them were crew members and 10 were passengers.

Among the seven people killed was 75-year-old pilot Ernest McCauley.

Ernest McCauley

Ernest McCauley was piloting the B-17 when it crashed. He's from Long Beach, CA

Another victim was retired Vernon Police Capt. Gary Mazzone. He was a member of the department for 22 years before becoming an inspector within the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice.

Gary Mazzone

The Vernon Police Department identified one of the victims as retired Capt. Gary Mazzone. He was a passenger on the B-17

Another victim was Rob Riddell, a WWII enthusiast. His family said he died doing what he loved. He was also an employee of The Hartford.

“We are very saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime employee, Robert Riddell, in the crash [Wednesday] at Bradley International Airport," said Matthew Sturdevant, spokesperson for The Hartford. "We offer our condolences to his family and friends and to everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Rob Riddell

Channel 3 learned that another victim was Rob Riddell, a WWII enthusiast.

Two airport employees were inside the de-icing building at the time of the crash. One was injured. A firefighter was also hurt in the emergency response.

The victims were taken to three different area hospitals, including Hartford, St. Francis, and the Bridgeport Hospital Burn Unit.

All of the surviving victims have since been connected with their families.

Police released the names of those injured in the crash:

  • Mitchell Melton, 34 - Light engineer on B-17, from Dalehaff, TX
  • Andy Barrett, 36 - passenger from South Hadley, MA
  • Linda Schmidt, 62 - passenger from Suffield, CT
  • Tom Schmidt, 62 - passenger from Suffield CT
  • Joseph Huber, 48 - passenger from Tariffville, CT
  • James Traficante, 54 - passenger from Simsbury, CT

Simsbury officials confirmed two volunteer firefighters were aboard the B-17 at the time of the crash. Hospital officials confirmed one firefighter was brought to the Bridgeport Hospital burn unit.

A member of the Connecticut Air National Guard was also a passenger on the B-17 at the time of the crash. He performed life-saving efforts after the plane went down.

See photos from the crash scene here.

The investigation

National Transportation Safety Board said it expects a days-long investigation into what happened before the plane crashed.

On Wednesday morning, police said the pilot attempted to make a landing on one of the runways when the B-17 aircraft crashed. The pilot had reported a problem shortly after takeoff and tried to swing the plane around. Police said the plane was in the air for approximately 5 minutes.

Bradley crash map

During the landing attempt, officials said the plane hit a landing instrument station, veered to the right, crossed the runway, and then struck a de-icing facility.

TIMELINE: 7 killed during B-17 crash at Bradley

The NTSB released video on Thursday of the B-17 wreckage.

The B-17 bomber was manufactured in 1944 and was purchased by the Collings Foundation in 1986.

This particular aircraft has one prior accident and one prior incident on its record, the NTSB said.

The accident happened in 1986 in Pennsylvania where it overshot the runway.

In 1995, the landing gear failed in Nebraska.

Nationwide there have been 21 accidents involving WWII era bombers, 3 of which were B-17G's.

The NTSB is looking for the public to email information, videos and pictures from the crash or moments leading up to it. The files can be emailed to witness@ntsb.gov.

Airport operations

The airport was shut down on Wednesday morning. The Federal Aviation Administration put a ground stop on all flights to the airport. The airport reopened just before 2 p.m.

The airport has since resumed operations.

Health advisory

The town of Windsor issued a health advisory on Wednesday for a potential discharge of firefighting foam into the Farmington River. The foam originated from the plane crash fire at the airport.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded to the crash.

Over the weekend, a family in Windsor said they witnessed foam accumulating in a backyard brook that feeds the Farmington River. DEEP was contacted. It set up barriers to prevent the spread and tested it.

DEEP expects the results in a matter of days.

"Containment and cleanup of materials released into the environment as a result of the Oct. 2 plane crash at Bradley continue," DEEP posted to social media. "We're monitoring Rainbow Brook, Watts Pond, Farmington River for accumulations of firefighting foam. If you see foam, report it to DEEP at 860-424-3338."

Background on the B-17 aircraft

The aircraft is a civilian-registered aircraft and was not flown by the military, according to the FAA.

"We can confirm that there was an accident involving a Collings Foundation World War II aircraft [Wednesday] morning at Bradley Airport," Bradley Airport posted to Twitter

The Collings Foundation, which owns the plane, released a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley," the foundation said. "The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known."

B17 Jeff Fink.jpg

B-17 Flying Fortress

Five vintage WWII planes were on display at the airport to honor veterans as part of a Wings of Freedom Tour. It's unclear if any of those planes were involved.

In a statement on Wednesday, the New England Air Museum said "On behalf of the entire New England Air Museum family, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by today's crash of a vintage B-17 aircraft at Bradley International Airport. Although we are not connected to the Collings Foundation or these flights, the New England Air Museum and the Collings Foundation have a decades-long relationship and we are deeply saddened by today's tragedy."

On Friday, Collings Foundation announced it is suspending flight operations the the Wings of Freedom Tour for the remainder of the 2019 season. The foundation said they will be issuing refunds for those who had reserved flights through December. 

Refresh this page and watch Eyewitness News for updates.

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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