NTSB Searching for Clues in WWII-Era B-17 Bomber Crash That Killed 7

The 75-year-old plane reportedly suffered engine failures and struggled to gain altitude immediately after takeoff.

Tragedy struck early Wednesday morning when a vintage World War II bomber crashed during a historic flight at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, injuring a total of 16 people and claiming seven lives. The old Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” from the 1930s reportedly crashed into a de-icing facility at the airport after suffering an engine problem shortly after takeoff. Since the incident, the victims’ names have all been released.

As cited by multiple reports, local police say the B-17’s pilot, 75-year-old Ernest McCauley, radioed to air-traffic control to report a problem after taking off from the airport’s main runway and failing to gain altitude. McCauley later explained to the air tower that he observed a power loss in engine number four. The plane reportedly crashed as it was circling around and go for an emergency landing.

“At about 9:50 a.m. the crew contacted the tower and reported an issue with the airplane. We are looking into that report for further information,” said Jennifer Homendy, a spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, to reporters during a press conference. “We know that the crew circled back to runway six and attempted to land on runway six.”

It then struck a landing instrument station and crossed one of the airport’s runways before colliding with a maintenance facility. The B-17 was airborne for roughly five minutes.

A total of 13 people were on board: three crew members and 10 passengers, while three other people were injured on the ground as a result of the crash. Six of the passengers survived the incident, with three being discharged as early as Wednesday, while two others were transferred to other hospitals. One remains at the first-responding medical center in Hartford as of Thursday afternoon.

While the NTSB returned to the scene of the crash on Thursday, spokespeople said the investigation could take weeks given the nature of the crash and the age of the airplane. Old fixed-wing aircraft like the 75-year-old B-17 doesn’t feature modern tracking technology such as a black box data and voice recorder.

At the time of publishing, the NTSB is currently investigating the situation.