The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on a plane crash in Connecticut that killed a Boston couple and two pilots, revealing that the aircraft’s parking brake was still in the ‘set’ position, and that witnesses described the jet as ‘going slower’ than normal during takeoff.
The report, which came out on Tuesday, also said that the witnesses saw a puff of smoke and noticed the twin-engine Cessna 560XL was having trouble gaining altitude.
The NTSB did not say what may have caused the deadly September 2 crash in Farmington, which remains under investigation.
The small plane was to have flown from Robertson Airport in Plainville to Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, North Carolina. But it crashed into a laser factory shortly after takeoff and burst into flames.
Killed were a Boston couple who were both doctors, Courtney Haviland, 33, her husband, William Shrauner, 32, and the two pilots, William O’Leary, 55, of Bristol, and Mark Morrow, 57, of Danbury. Four people on the ground were injured, including one who was seriously hurt.
Haviland and Shrauner left behind a toddler-age son, and Haviland was pregnant at the time of the crash, according to relatives.
A preliminary NTSB report has revealed that a business jet’s parking brake was still on when it crashed into a Connecticut factory on September 2, killing all four people on board
Married Boston doctors Courtney Haviland, 33, and William Shrauner, 32, died in a private jet crash in Connecticut on Thursday. Their baby son was not with them at the time , but Haviland was pregnant with her second child, a girl, at the time
Pilots William O’Leary, 55, (right) and Mark Morrow, 57, (left)
As the twin-engine Cessna was accelerating on the runway at Robertson Airport in Plainville, one witness noticed it was going slower than usual, the report said. The flight data recorder showed it took the plane 17 seconds to accelerate from 20 knots to 100 knots, compared with 11.5 seconds and 12 seconds during its previous two flights, investigators said.
A witness saw a puff of blue-colored smoke from the jet’s rear, and another witness believed something was wrong because the nose landing gear was still on the ground near the mid-point of the runway, the report said.
A third witness saw the plane leave the runway in a level position and its nose pitched up, but it was not climbing, investigators said.
‘The airplane then impacted a powerline pole, which caused a small explosion near the right engine followed by a shower of softball-size sparks,’ the report said. ‘After hitting the pole, the noise of the engine went from normal sounding to a much more grinding, metallic sound.’
The jet then hit a grassy area next to the Trumpf Inc. manufacturing building, about 850 feet north of the utility pole. It then struck the building, causing a fire that consumed most of the aircraft, the report said.
Investigators who examined the plane after the crash noticed the parking brake was on, and skid marks were found on the runway. But the flight data recorder did not record the parking brake valve position, which was not monitored by the takeoff warning system, the report said.
Haviland and Shrauner left behind a toddler-age son, and Haviland was pregnant at the time of the crash, according to relatives
Morrow was one of four people killed in a plane crash in Farmington
Interstate Aviation, the company founded by the second pilot killed in the crash, released a statement on Facebook
It was not clear from the report when the brake was activated, but aviation expert Dr. Michael Teiger told News 8 that if the brake was on during takeoff, it could have prevented the pilot from gaining adequate speed and altitude before the jet ran out of runway.
NTSB officials said the final report, which would include the likely causes of the crash, could take a year or more to complete.
Pilot Mark Morrow’s wife, Dunja Morrow, told The News-Times earlier this month that her husband ‘talked about flying every minute of his life.’
‘Everything was about flying,’ Dunja Morrow said through tears, adding that her husband was ‘up to par’ with Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations.
Michael Morrow, their son, told the outlet that Mark Morrow had served as a flight instructor for decades and even taught him and his sister how to fly.
‘He was a very avid teacher and just loved to share his passion with flying for anybody and everybody he could,’ Michael Morrow said.
Family members described Morrow as ‘gifted, mechanically’ and said he could ‘fix anything.’ He had worked for private jet charter company ConnAir Corporation before COVID-19 and has been working freelance since then.
‘Flying was his life. It was his love,’ Michael Morrow said.
The other pilot was named as William ‘Will’ O’Leary, 55, of Bristol – whose father Bill O’Leary had managed the Robertson Airport on behalf of the town, according to a 2017 article from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Bill O’Leary also founded Interstate Aviation, an air charter service and flight school operating at the airport since 1971.
The younger O’Leary spent much of his time at the family’s business where he learned to fly, until his father sold the business, The News-Times reported. His sisters continue to work in the office for the company.
O’Leary continued flying charter planes from the airport after the business was sold, and was described by Plainville Town Manager Robert E. Lee as ‘very good at flying the jets in and out of Robertson.’
He was remembered by Robert Zirpolo, a former pilot for Interstate Aviation, as an ‘accomplished pilot’ and a a ‘mild-mannered guy’ who followed his father’s footsteps.
‘He wasn’t a guy who made a lot of noise,’ Zirpolo told The News-Times.
The Cessna plane crashed into a building at Trumpf Inc, a manufacturing company
The plane crash in Farmington, Connecticut sent flames into the sky
Firefighters spray water at the scene of a plane crash, in Farmington, Connecticut
The airport has provided services to a number of celebrities in the past, including actor Matthew McConaughey, singer-songwriter Carly Simon and rapper 50 Cent, the Hartford Courant reported in 2007.
‘We are devastated by the loss of our friends and family members today. Thank you all for you love and support,’ Interstate Aviation wrote in a Facebook post.
The Robertson Airport in Plainville has a documented history of crashes, the Bristol Press noted in 2018.
That year, Burlington resident Donald Eckberg, 67, crashed a twin-engine Rutan Defiant plane into Plaineville’s landfill around 10:30 a.m. after it flew over a nearby condo complex south of the Robertson Airport.
As of 2018, there had been 17 airplane crashes in Plainville since 1982 though only three of them involved fatalities, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reviewed by the outlet at the time.
The NTSB had ruled that most of the wrecks were caused by either pilot error or a mechanical malfunction – or a combination of both factors, the Bristol Press reported.
Investigators with the NTSB were at the scene of the fiery crash Friday. The cause remains under investigation.
The plane reportedly crashed into the ground before sliding onto the factory building ahead
The plane crashed in the small town of Farmington about a mile down the road from an airport
‘The Farmington Police Department extends their deepest condolences to the friends and family of the four passengers who died in this tragic crash,’ McKenzie said in a statement.
The Cessna Citation 560X took off just before 10am on September 2 on a flight headed to Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, North Carolina, the FAA said.
The jet contacted the ground a short distance from the runway and crashed into a building at Trumpf Inc. The impact set off chemical fires inside the building. Two employees suffered minor injuries, officials said.
DailyMail.com can now reveal that Haviland worked as a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital after earning her medical degree from Weill Cornel Medical College of Cornell University.
Her husband, Shrauner, was a second-year cardiology fellow at Boston Medical Center.
A spokesperson for Boston Medical Center sent a statement to DailyMail.com, confirming the deaths of the couple.
‘We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our cardiology fellows, Dr. Will Shrauner, and his wife, Dr. Courtney Haviland,’ the statement read.
‘Will, a second year fellow at Boston Medical Center, was well known as an outstanding educator, physician, colleague and friend to many. Our thoughts and prayers are with Will and Courtney’s family and loved ones.’
Dr Haviland (left) worked as a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr Shrauner (right), was a second-year cardiology fellow at Boston Medical Center
Haviland is pictured with her baby son, Teddy, during happier times
After also earning his medical degree from Cornell in 2016, he did his three-year residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, followed by a cardiovascular disease research fellowship, which he completed last year.
The couple celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary in June. They had recently welcomed their first child, a son named Teddy.
One of Shrauner’s siblings revealed in a Facebook post that the couple’s son, Teddy, was not on the doomed flight with his parents and is safe.
Ben Shrauner wrote that his brother combined in himself the finest qualities of all of their siblings.
‘Courtney was a perfect match for him,’ he added. ‘[She was] smart, beautiful, witty, charismatic, and always fun to be around. Two really special people that are gone way too soon.’
Gov. Lamont said ‘insularly fires’ broke out inside the Trumpf facility, where no one was hurt
The Cessna Citation 560X averages $2.5 million and can carry up to 10 passengers
Witnesses say the plane struggled to take off from the airport earlier in the day, according to reporter Caitlin Francis of WFSB. It hit the ground before eventually crashing into the factory building.
Photos from the scene show smoke billowing up as a mangled plane appears to rest next to the charred side of the building.
Cessna Citation 560Xs sell for as much as $2.5million, according to LibertyJet.com. The popular aircraft sits up to 10 passengers.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont thanked first responders at the scene and added that the plane probably had mechanical issues and hit a power line after taking off from the nearby airport.
‘It’s a chemical facility inside so there’s a lot of other insularly fires going on. Our amazing first responders were here almost immediately, but there was not much to save in terms of the folks on the plane,’ Lamont told WTNH.
‘I’m feeling the tragedy. I’m feeling it’s a state that’s had a lot of loss recently.’
A website for Trumpf describes the Farmington campus as a ‘state-of-the-art training facility, where more than 25 full-time instructors teach hands-on classes for programming, maintenance, and equipment operation in a 48,000 sq ft fabrication shop.’
‘The production of solid-state laser sources and flatbed laser-cutting machines is also carried out in the Farmington facility, to better serve the needs of customers in North America.’
Burke Doar, senior vice president at Trumpf, said in a video posted on Twitter that company officials were assessing the damage Friday and trying to get production of machine tools and lasers for customers back on track.
A witness at a nearby company, Image First, told WTIC-TV that they heard a loud explosion and ran out to see the smoke.
Farmington is located in Hartford County, about 10 miles southwest of the state capital of Hartford. The 25,000-person town is about two hours from Boston and three hours from New York City.