Deadly East Hartford, Connecticut, plane crash was 'intentional, - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Deadly East Hartford, Connecticut, plane crash was 'intentional,' NTSB says

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(NBC) -

A small plane that crashed in Connecticut was brought down by an "intentional act," federal authorities said Wednesday after an initial investigation.

Moments before the crash Tuesday afternoon, the student pilot of the Piper PA-34 Seneca and his instructor were arguing, a senior federal law enforcement official told NBC News.

The student pilot struck a utility pole and wires, knocking out power to a residential East Hartford neighborhood and causing a fire to engulf the aircraft, witnesses told The Hartford Courant.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was transferring its investigation to the FBI.

The student pilot, Feras M. Freitekh, died at the scene, federal officials told NBC News. The flight instructor — identified as American Flight Academy owner Arian Prevalla — was rushed to the hospital for burns but was expected to survive.

A spokesman for Yale New Haven Bridgeport Hospital told NBC News that Prevalla was in fair condition Wednesday. East Hartford police Lt. Josh Litwin told reporters Wednesday that local and federal investigators had been able to interview him.

The plane took off from Hartford-Brainard Airport south of downtown Hartford, authorities said. It crashed near the offices of defense contractor Pratt & Whitney, which manufactures jet engines, and was attached to a nearby flight school, police told NBC Connecticut.

There was no immediate evidence that the incident was linked to terrorism, the federal law enforcement official told NBC News.

Litwin wouldn't confirm the identities of relationship of the two people on board, telling reporters that the investigation was "extremely active" and "still in its infancy."

"Nothing has been ruled out, including an accident," he said.

The plane wasn't initially believed to have had a "black box," or flight data recorder, on board. It hadn't been determined whether there were any security cameras in the area, but Litwin said that because the plane crashed at a busy time of the day, multiple witnesses had submitted cellphone video, which he said was being reviewed.

Authorities searched Freitekh's Hartford-area home but didn't find anything to indicate terrorism, and he was not in any terrorism databases, according to officials. The FBI plans to seek a search warrant for any of Freitekh's electronic devices.

In a statement to NBC Connecticut, Deputy Hartford Police Chief Brian Foley confirmed that an investigation was under way at a nearby apartment complex near where the crash.

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Litwin added that the twin-engine aircraft had two sets of controls, but he wouldn't confirm who was flying.

Pratt & Whitney said its employees or contractors weren't involved in the incident. But company workers, who left their jobs Tuesday to see the smoldering wreckage, returned to their morning shifts Wednesday still shaken.

"I saw the plane going low," Gregory Bell told the Courant. "It was too low."

By the time he got down to the street, Bell said, he heard the crash.

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