Police identify victims of deadly WWII bomber crash at Connecticut airport

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Deadly WWII bomber crash at Connecticut airport

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Authorities said seven people died and several others were injured Wednesday morning when a World War II-era bomber crashed at Connecticut's Bradley International Airport.

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The four-engine Boeing B-17 reportedly encountered mechanical trouble on takeoff and pilots circled back for a landing. Officials said aircraft struck a de-icing and maintenance facility while trying to land on a runway.

Authorities said the World War II-era bomber was registered to a civilian and associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its “Wings of Freedom” vintage aircraft display to Bradley International this week.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT Oct. 3: Police on Thursday released the names of the victims killed or injured when a B-17 crashed one day earlier at Connecticut's Bradley International Airport.

According to the Hartford Courant, authorities have confirmed David Broderick, 56, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, was one of the people who died in Wednesday's crash. Authorities identified six others presumed dead as:

  • Pilot Ernest McCauley, 75, Long Beach, California
  • Co-pilot Michael Foster, 71, of Jacksonville, Florida
  • Passenger Gary Mazzone, of Broad Brook, Connecticut
  • Passenger James Robert, 48, of Ludlow, Massachusetts
  • Passenger Robert Riddell, 59, of East Granby, Connecticut
  • Passenger Robert Rubner, 64, of Tolland, Connecticut

Police also released the names of seven people injured in the crash. They were identified as:

  • Flight engineer Mitchell Melton, 34, of Dalehart, Texas
  • Passenger Andy Barrett, 36, of South Hadley, Massachusetts
  • Passenger Linda Schmidt, 62, of Suffield, Connecticut
  • Passenger Tom Schmidt, 62, of Suffield, Connecticut
  • Passenger Joseph "JT" Huber, 48, of the Tarriffville neighborhood of Simsbury, Connecticut
  • Passenger James Traficante, 54, of Simsbury, Connecticut
  • Airport personnel Andrew Sullivan, 28, of Enfield, Connecticut

Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

Update 9:35 a.m. EDT Oct. 3: Officials in Connecticut identified one of the seven people killed in Wednesday's B-17 crash at Bradley International Airport as Gary Mazzone, according to multiple reports.

Mazzone retired earlier this year from the Connecticut State's Attorney's Office, where he'd worked for nearly 20 years as an inspector in Litchfield County, the Republican American reported.

"It's an incomprehensible tragedy," recently retired Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack told the Republican American.

Mazzone previously worked for the Vernon Police Department for 22 years, WFSB reported.

Update 7:09 a.m. EDT Oct. 3: Family members have identified one of the seven people killed in a B-17 crash Wednesday, multiple news outlets are reporting.

According to WABC and WFSB, Robert Riddell, a 59-year-old father of two and World War II enthusiast from Connecticut, died in the incident.

In a statement, Riddell's wife, Debra, called her husband "the best person I've ever known," WABC reported.

"He was my soul mate. I will miss him beyond words can ever express," the statement read in part.

His stepdaughter, Jessica Darling, told WFSB that Riddell "died doing something that was really near to him."

Update 5:50 p.m. EDT Oct. 2: As many as seven people have died following the crash of a B-17 Wednesday morning according to WFSB.

Among the 13 aboard the WW II-era bomber were two volunteer firefighters and one member of the Connecticut Air National Guard.

Update 3:05 p.m. EDT Oct. 2: At least five people died in Wednesday morning's crash at Bradley International Airport, an unidentified Connecticut state official told The Associated Press.

The B-17 carrying 13 people crashed around 10 a.m. Wednesday as it was attempting to land. Police said it struck a de-icing and maintenance building, injuring one person on the ground in addition to the 13 people on board.

Authorities continue to investigate the incident.

Update 1:50 p.m. EDT Oct. 2: Bradley International Airport reopened Wednesday afternoon, hours after a B-17 crashed and hit a de-icing and maintenance facility while trying to land at the airport.

Authorities said 14 people were injured in Wednesday crash and that an unspecified number of people were also killed. Officials continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

Update 1:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 2: Connecticut State Police Commissioner James Rovella told reporters fatalities were reported as a result of Wednesday morning's plane crash, though he declined to specify how many people were reportedly killed.

"I will not tell you the number yet because during this investigation it's far too early to discuss," he said.

Officials said 14 people were injured in the crash, including 13 people who were in the B-17 and one person who was in the building struck by the plane. Rovella said 10 of the people injured were paying passengers while three were plane crew members.

Officials at Hartford Hospital said they received six patients injured in Wednesday's crash. Three people suffered critical injuries, two people suffered moderate injuries and one other person was minimally injured.

Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

Original report: Flames and heavy smoke could be seen Wednesday morning as authorities responded to reports of the crash.


Hartford Hospital spokesman Shawn Mawhiney told CNN at least six people were expected to be taken to the hospital after the crash, but he later told The Associated Press only five people were hospitalized. Details of their injuries were not immediately known. According to the Courant, at least one person was airlifted from the scene of the crash.

Brian Hamer, of Norton, Massachusetts, told the AP he was less than a mile away when he saw a B-17, fly directly overhead, apparently trying to gain altitude but not succeeding.

One of the engines began to sputter, and smoke came out the back, Hamer said. The plane made a wide turn and headed back toward the airport, he said.

"Then we heard all the rumbling and the thunder, and all the smoke comes up and we kind of figured it wasn’t good," Hamer said.

"This is kind of shocking; it’s a loss to lose a B-17," he said. "I mean, there aren’t very many of those left."

In a statement released to WFSB, Collings Foundation officials thanked "the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley," and offered their thoughts and prayers for those who were onboard the B-17 when it crashed.

"The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known," the statement said.

Bradley International Airport was closed Wednesday morning as authorities responded to the incident and the FAA issued a ground stop on all flights destined for the airport.

Officials with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were among those to respond to reports of the crash, WFSB reported.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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