A small plane used as an auxiliary Coast Guard patrol unit crashed into a popular recreational field in Bergen County, and the pilot is being lauded for taking the failing plane down in a way to avoid hitting any people below.
The Cessna 172 crash-landed into a tree in the field behind Cresskill Swim Club shortly before 5 p.m., according to authorities. The 3rd Street Recreational Corridor is the borough’s main recreational field and used for local sports.
There were two people on board the plane, and they were taken to Englewood Hospital with serious injuries, police said. No one on the ground was hurt.
Police Chief Edward Wrixon on the scene said the plane, which was being used as an auxiliary plane by the Coast Guard, was doing patrols over Hudson River when it began experiencing mechanical problems.
The pilots checked in with a tower at LaGuardia Airport to try to land on the Hudson River but could not make it, and ended up crashing into a small patch of trees just on the edge of the field.
Radio transmissions to LaGuardia confirmed the emergency. A pilot could be heard saying, “I lost my engine.”
Witness Frank Ruggiero said he was at work when a colleague alerted him to the low-flying plane.
“My co-worker turned around and said, ‘There’s a plane coming right at us,'” he said. “We looked up and saw that it was heading right for the building across the way.”
“It turned on its side a little bit and disappeared behind the building,” he said. “There was no smoke, no nothing. When it crashed, there was no smoke, no flames that I saw.”
The plane split into pieces as it hit the trees.
“If you see where they landed, they did a damn good job of averting a tragedy by getting over there,” said Wrixon.
Mayor Benedict Romeo said he was concerned when he received the call about the crash.
“I know this building in another hour would have been filled and the field would have been filled because today’s the first day of school, and all our practice for football and soccer start today.
Thank God this happened before the children got here,” he said.
The NTSB is taking over the investigation.
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