A Lear jet attempting to land at a northern New Jersey airport flipped and crashed in a nearby industrial area Monday afternoon, killing two crew members and setting fire to buildings and vehicles, said authorities and officials with the aircraft’s charter service.
Witnesses reported seeing the plane flying erratically and flipping upside down before slamming into a door manufacturing warehouse and another commercial building about 3:30 p.m. in Carlstadt, a quarter mile south of the jet’s destination, Teterboro Airport, federal and local officials said.
Trans-Pacific Jets, which charters the plane, said the pilot and copilot died and were the only two aboard when they flew out of Philadelphia.
Air traffic controllers said the two pilots did not issue a distress call before the crash, said a spokesman for the charter company, which is based in Hawaii and California.
There were no reports of injuries on the ground or anyone missing by early evening, local officials said at a news conference. Another news conference is scheduled for 9 p.m., officials said.
“It’s a miracle,” Carlstadt Mayor Craig Lahullier told reporters as he and police officials gave updates.
After the jet crashed and burst into flames, columns of thick, black smoke billowing up could be seen for miles.
After the eight-seater slammed into the ground, employees at the two burning warehouses were able to evacuate, authorities said, and as the winds whipped the fire, the flames hopped to a nearby Carlstadt Borough public works property.
The fire tore through the public works parking lot, but not the public works building because it was set back from the road, the mayor said.
“It was very distressing,” Lahullier said. “I heard where [the crash] was and I said, ‘that’s right where the [public works building] is.”
Firefighters and hazmat units were expected to fully extinguish the inferno before darkness fell Monday. Local officials said it was still too hot to go inside the burned warehouses to search and confirm that no one else was injured.
The FAA is looking into the crash and investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Board were expected to arrive at the scene Tuesday morning.
The plane, registered to A&C Big Sky Aviation in Montana, was built in 1981, said its owner Chandra Hanson of Billings, Montana.
Hanson said she did not know the crew members or have details on the plane’s maintenance record because the charter company had leased it.
She said the plane had flown all across the country. The jet had flown out of Republic Airport in Farmingdale on May 5, according to FlightAware, an online tracking system.
Hanson said Trans-Pacific Jets is expected to give her more details on the crash and what may have caused it.
“My plane can be replaced,” she said. “The two pilots can’t.”