The twin-engine plane was bound for Charleston, South Carolina when it broke apart and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island in New York late Saturday morning, according to Newsday, which spoke with witnesses.
The victims in the crash include a flight instructor from Connecticut and a teacher from Georgia, according to local media reports in both states. The U.S. Coast Guard recovered three bodies from the fuselage of the Piper PA-34, which was resting on the sea floor about 20 feet underwater, the Hartford Courant reported.
Steve Mennuti witnessed the crash, according to Newsday, and told the newspaper the pieces of the plane fell “like leaves” from the sky. “It was one whine, then a second one and then silence, as if it disappeared out of thin air,” he told Newsday, adding that he called 911 just before 11 a.m. Saturday to report the crash.
Tim Carbone, another witness along the Hamptons beach, told Newsday he heard the plane and “thought for a second it might be a stunt plane.” But then the engine stopped, he told the newspaper, and he saw pieces fall to the ocean.
The New York Times reported the pilot, Munidat “Raj” Persaud, was killed in the crash. Persaud operated a flight school in Westbury, Connecticut and owned the plane, according to the Times.
Persaud owned a dozen other planes, the newspaper reported, citing the Federal Aviation Authority. Two of his other planes, the Times noted, have been involved in crashes in recent years. Earlier this year a similar plane owned by Persaud crashed into a mountain in Vermont. The newspaper said a preliminary accident report did not find any mechanical issues with the plane, but there was bad weather at the time. One person died in the crash.
In 2016, a student pilot flying one of Persaud’s planes missed a runway and crashed, the Times reported. In that case, the student pilot was injured, the newspaper said.
The second victim is reported to be Jennifer Landrum, a high school teacher from McDuffie County, Georgia, near Augusta, according to television station WXFG.
Augusta television station WJBF cited the school district, describing Landrum as a high school special education teacher.
The third victim has not been identified.
The plane took off from Danbury, Connecticut Saturday morning and planned to fly to Charleston, The New York Post reported, but it lost contact with air traffic controllers before the crash.
A Coast Guard press release said it ended its search of the wreckage Sunday afternoon after recovering the bodies of the three people who were on board the plane.
Charles Duncan: 843-626-0301, @duncanreporting