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Cops: Wheatley Heights man piloted small plane that crashed in N.J.

Firefighters stand near wreckage of a small plane

Firefighters stand near wreckage of a small plane that crashed on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, in Bayonne, N.J. Authorities said the pilot was pulled from the plane and hospitalized with minor injuries. Credit: AP / Ed Murray

A Wheatley Heights man was the pilot in a small private plane that crashed in a Bayonne, New Jersey, neighborhood on Sunday morning after taking off from Republic Airport, authorities said.

George Pettway, 56, had planned to take a “pleasure flight” around 8:30 a.m. up the Hudson River and to return to Long Island, Bayonne Police Lt. James Donovan said.

The aircraft, a 1972 single-propeller Piper PA-28, began experiencing “mechanical difficulty” near the Statue of Liberty and crashed around 10 a.m. near 41st Street and Avenue E in Bayonne, striking four unoccupied parked cars, Donovan said.

“It actually came to rest upside down,” Donovan said. Pettway was extricated from the plane by firefighters, who contained leaking fuel, Donovan said. Pettway was taken to Jersey City Medical Center with minor injuries.

“The guy lived to tell about it,” Donovan said.

Marelyn Feliciano, 30, of Bayonne said she was in her Avenue E home when she heard the crash. “It shook the house. It was pretty loud,” she said, adding that residents were evacuated until around 6:30 p.m.

The plane is owned by the Queens-based Airborn Flight Services Inc., Donovan said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash to determine the cause of the accident, officials with the FAA said.

“We’re gathering information at this time,” NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said.

A representative from Republic Airport could not immediately be reached.

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