A husband and wife from Goshen, N.Y. were considering buying the small plane that crashed on Long Island Sunday, killing the wife and the plane's owner but sparing everyone on the residential street the plane slammed into, federal officials said Monday.
Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating whether safety problems documented on the plane had been fixed before the deadly crash.
Jane Uhnjem, 60, an assistant superintendent in Goshen schools, died several hours after being hospitalized with burns. Her 61-year-old husband, Erik, was listed in serious condition at Stony Brook University Medical Center. The couple have two children.
The pilot, David J. McElroy, 53, of Orient, also died in the crash. Witnesses on the ground in Shirley praised him as a hero for maneuvering the plane away from houses before it slammed into the ground.
"He did an amazing job, landing that plane, he saved my family [and] me," said Jacqueline Resto. "He's a hero. He saved us."
The plane, a Socata TB10, crashed in Shirley shortly after taking off from Brookhaven Calabro Airport Sunday afternoon.
Brian Rayner of the NTSB said the agency found a report indicating the plane had numerous safey issues that needed to be addressed. Whether those issues were addressed before the crash was unclear, Rayner said. It was also unclear who was operating the plane when it crashed, he said.
The NTSB began its on-site investigation on Monday. Federal investigators planned to document the wreckage on scene before turning the site over to local authorities, officials said.
Rayner told reporters one witness said the plane came down and pitched up over a house before crashing into a tree.
"The witness gave a strong impression that it was the pilot's intent to avoid his house," Rayner said.
The front of the plane landed on a tree-lined street flanked with homes -- ending up about 100 feet from the nearest house and several hundred from half a dozen others -- and its tail plunged into a nearby construction trash bin, said Jeff Litwin, who lives on the street a few hundred feet from the crash on Helene Avenue.
"My boyfriend runs and grabs a hose, runs to the side the guy was trying to get out," Resto recalled. "We tried to keep him wet."
Another witness, Barbara Lewis, added: "Your first instinct is to help somebody when you can... It's traumatic, gut-wrenching."
Dan Connor, the superintendent of Goshen schools and Jane Uhnjem's boss, said Erik was a "cautious, safe flyer." But he added that if "something was wrong the the plane, there's nothing anyone could have done."
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