Motives for ‘intentional’ Connecticut plane crash investigated by FBI
"All windows are open at this point," East Hartford police Lt. Josh Litwin told reporters on Wednesday.
Trainee pilot Feras M. Freitekh and his instructor, Arian Prevalla, had been flying a Piper PA-34 Seneca, a twin-engined light aircraft. They took off from Hartford-Brainard Airport and later hit a utility pole, causing the plane to burst into flames in the vicinity of the offices of defense contractor Pratt & Whitney, which manufactures jet engines.
An anonymous law enforcement official claimed that Freitekh had told the instructor he did not want to fly the plane any longer, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash had been intentional, but refused to elaborate. A federal official told the Associated Press that the crash appears to have been a suicide attempt, not a terrorist strike.
Prevalla survived the crash and was taken to Bridgeport Hospital to be treated for serious burns. However, Freitekh did not survive the crash. Two people in a minivan that nearly collided with the plane have also been treated for minor burns.
Other officials have urged the public to remain calm until more evidence is released. On Wednesday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) told reporters, "when events such as this occur, we recognize that people almost automatically wonder if someone meant to do us harm. But we must exercise caution about jumping to conclusions before discovering and considering all of the facts.''
Freitekh, 28, was born in Jordan and lived in Orland Hills, Illinois, according to public records. Federal Aviation Administration records show that he had a private pilot certificate to fly a single-engine plane. He may have been staying at an apartment complex in Hartford that is rented out by area flight schools, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The building where he lived was often used to house international students. Neighbors told reporters that he had been living there for five months.
State and federal investigators searched an apartment in the building with dogs and protective gear, but the building was not evacuated. It is still unclear who was piloting the plane at the time of the crash.
"Either of the two occupants at any time had the ability to take control of this plane," said East Hartford police Lt. Joshua Litwin.
Freitekh was described by his neighbor Giselle Velazquez as "very nice, polite, always smiling" and he "always stopped to say hello," the Los Angeles Times reported. This description was echoed by Jessica Reyes, another neighbor, who told the Times that Freitekh would buy ice cream for children in the neighborhood and enjoyed sharing meals from his native Jordan with her.
His cousin, who did not want to be named, said that Freitekh had moved to the US to pursue his dream of being a pilot and spoke to his character, saying, "He was a good person, kind and helpful," and "He wasn't religious at all. He was open-minded."