Manhattan Doctor, Two Relatives Die in Jersey Plane Crash

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    Cirrus 22

    A single-engine airplane crashed near an airport in northern New Jersey after an aborted landing attempt and burst into flames, killing a New York City doctor and two relatives.

    It appeared the plane was descending for a landing at the Essex County Airport in Fairfield when the pilot pulled up Monday evening, Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. The plane, which had taken off from upstate New York, crashed moments later just north of the airport on a grassy patch surrounded by businesses and warehouses.

    3 Killed in NJ Plane Crash

    [NY] 3 Killed in NJ Plane Crash
    A small plane narrowly missed a strip of buildings when it plummeted to the ground in Fairfield Monday, just blocks away from the Essex County Airport. (Published Monday, Jul 5, 2010)

    Manhattan rheumatologist Margaret D. Smith, 70, was piloting the four-seater plane and died along with Michael Ferguson, 44, and his wife, Theresa Ferguson, Fairfield police Deputy Chief Steven Gutkin said. The three were the only people on the single-engine plane, a Cirrus SR22, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Holly Baker said.

    Smith was the senior associate dean at New York Medical College and was a professor of clinical medicine. The school had no immediate comment Monday night.

    The SR22 features a parachute that can bring the aircraft to a soft landing if there's an engine failure, but it's unclear if one was deployed in Monday's crash.

    The flight originated in Plattsburgh, N.Y., a city next to Lake Champlain close to the Canadian border. It was unclear what caused it to crash, authorities said. National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on their way to the scene.

    Witnesses said they heard two explosions before the plane crashed. They said the wreckage became a fireball. Only the plane's tail section remained intact after the crash and the intense fire.