The small plane that crashed and burst into flames near Teterboro Airport early this morning struck a tree after aborting its landing, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board said.
The plane was attempting to land on Runway 1, but had to abort and hit the tree on its way back up, NTSB senior safety investigator Bob Grezz said at a news conference. Two survivors miraculously crawled out of the flaming wreckage of their twin-engine beechcraft BE58.
Grezz said there was no debris on the runway so it wasn't clear why the pilot had to abort the landing, but investigators are hoping to derive clues from the plane's GPS. There was no flight data recorder in the plane.
There haven't been any reports of mechanical problems or emergency from the plane prior to the crash, but it's very early in the investigation, Grezz stressed.
The pilot and co-pilot staggered out of the fiery wreckage and stunned first responders who arrived outside the New Jersey based airport after the crash.
"I'm thirsty, I'm thirty," the shocked survivors said as they emerged from their small plane.
"How did you walk away from this?" asked a first responder.
Little Ferry police officer Adam Warne, who was among the first to respond to the scene, said he was taken aback to find the men alive and talking after the crash.
"They were sitting at the curb at the bus stop. Both of them were alert and conscious and answering questions,'' Warne said.
Warne said one man was "severely burned."
"The one who had more burns sat there and was in a daze,'' he said. "I saw the wreckage, they both said 'We were in the plane.' I was a little taken back, you know.''
The two were attempting to land their twin-engine Beechcraft at the New Jersey airport when the small plane went down just a few hundred yards short of the runway. It's unclear what caused the crash.
The plane crashed into the parking lot of Mohawk/Flomo, a carpet and flooring company.
One survivor, identified as George Maddox, was rushed to St. Barnabas Medical Center with burns. Spokeswoman Sally Malech said Maddox, of Reading, Pa., was in critical condition at the hospital's burn unit.
The other man was initially taken to a local hospital but was expected to be taken to St. Barnabas, which has the state's only burn unit. His name and condition were not immediately available.
The flight originated in Reading and was carrying blood specimens bound for a Quest Diagnostics lab just down the street.
The blackened remains of the plane were barely discernible from the side of Route 46.
Joanne and Michael DeVito of nearby Little Ferry looked out at the wreckage from the back of a local building.
"It's scary,'' Joanne DeVito, 38, said. "The big planes come in so low you could wave at the pilot. It shakes everything in the house.''
Federal Aviation Administration officials are investigating. The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to hold a news conference on the crash this morning.
The crash is the second in two weeks out of the airport. On Aug. 8, pilot Stephen Altman's single engine plane left the airport and later collided with a helicopter over the Hudson River, an accident that killed nine people.
In 2005, a corporate jet went off the runway at Teterboro, crashed through a fence and crossed a highway before smashing into a warehouse. Twenty people were injured.