On Tuesday, October 11, a Piper PA 34 twin-engine plane crashed on Main Street in East Hartford, Connecticut, killing one and inuring another. The plane hit a utility pole near a Pratt & Whitney factory, which manufactures jet engines for military, commercial and other broad-spectrum aircrafts across the globe. As such, the crash is now being investigated by the FBI as a possibly intentional act carried out by the deceased passenger/student pilot. Upon investigators arriving at the scene, the senior pilot indicated it was not an accident, sparking officials to involve the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The passenger, identified by authorities as 28-year-old Feras M. Freitekh of Orland Hills, Illinois, received a private pilot’s license that certified him to fly a single-engine plane on May 29, 2015. The aircraft left a flight school at Hartford-Brainard Airport in Hartford, and was scheduled to land at the same location prior to the incident, which occurred at approximately 3:40 pm.
Frietekh, who originally hails from the Arab nation of Jordan, first came to the United States on a temporary student M1 visa to complete a flight school course in 2012. During that time, his visa was changed to an F1, provided to international students attending an accredited college or university to study and learn the English language; he attended a school in Toledo, Ohio, for that purpose. Sometime after, his status was changed back to an M1 visa.
In addition to the FBI, officials on the scene include the State Police Central District Crime Squad, the Fire and Explosion Investigations Unit, the Federal Aviation Administration, and special detectives assigned to the state’s counterterrorism unit, with associates from the National Transportation Safety Board also expected to arrive. Fietekh died at the scene, while the instructor was taken to nearby Bridgeport Hospital after sustaining severe burns as a result of the fiery crash, though he is expected to live. Police Lieutenant John Litwin of East Hartford told the press, “As far as the occupants of the plane, he is expected to survive. He is cooperating with investigators he’s actually speaking with detectives as part of this investigation as ongoing.” Two passengers in a minivan who were in close proximity and witnessed the event also suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital for treatment. Thankfully, the plane did not make direct contact with their vehicle.
East Hartford’s police chief Scott M. Sansom spoke to reporters during a news conference stating they involved the FBI because of the nature of business conducted by Pratt & Whitney, claiming the factory is a “critical infrastructure.” Company spokesman Ray Hernandez wrote in an email that it did “not appear at this time that any Pratt & Whitney employees or contractors were involved.” Though aware of the crash, employees still showed up for work Wednesday morning to resume business as usual. Police have indicated Main Street will be closed indefinitely and have urged commuters and curious residents to avoid the area for now.