A small plane crashed and burst into flames near the Falmouth Airpark on Saturday morning, leaving one person dead and two others severely burned.
The plane, which had departed from Tweed New Haven Airport in New Haven missed hitting two homes by about 30 feet, authorities said.
The Cirrus SR22 plane crashed at the airpark around 11:02 a.m., said Holly Baker, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the cause of the accident. She did not know what time the aircraft took off.
At 11:05 a.m., firefighters found the plane in flames in woods near the airpark, said Falmouth Deputy Fire Chief Glen Rogers.
“I’ve been here for 32 years, and we’ve maybe had another incident of this severity,” said Rogers.
The plane carried three occupants, one of whom died, Falmouth police said in a statement. The other two were flown by medical helicopter to a Boston hospital for treatment of serious injuries, according to the statement.
The victims’ names were not released.
Falmouth Fire Captain Timothy Smith said the aircraft crashed between two homes, which border the airpark runway, landing about 30 feet from either house.
Marlene Nelson, 79, lives in the airpark and said she thought the plane may have struck a home when she initially saw the crash scene.
“They got very very lucky, I thought at first it had hit one of the two houses,” she said.
The crash was the first of its kind at the Falmouth Airpark, said Ed Stadelman, president of the Falmouth Airpark Homeowners Association.
“No injuries and no fatalities have ever occurred here before today,” Stadelman, 57, said in a phone interview Saturday.
Stadelman said the weather was clear for flying on Saturday. “There weren’t any really abnormal conditions,” he said.
The airpark, founded in 1982, is a privately owned airport that is available for public use, Stadelman said.
Residents are part of a flying community, he said, similar to a golfing community. Instead of being centered around a course, however, Stadelman said the airpark surrounds a single runway, 2,300 feet long and 40 feet wide. He said the victims of the crash were not residents of the airpark.
Between 40 and 50 families live in the airpark, Stadelman said. Seventy-five percent of those community members are small plane owners and many are experienced pilots or aviation enthusiasts, he said.
Some of the residents have hangars connected to their houses that open onto taxiways near the runway.
All residents live just a short distance from the airstrip, where planes take off almost every day.
Stadelman estimated that on clear days, the airpark averages about 30 operations, which could include takeoffs or landings. During holiday weekends, Stadelman said, the airpark could host as many as 50 operations.
The majority of activity involves airpark residents, he said.
Nelson lives on a street that ends in a cul-de-sac next to the runway. She said she was in her house Saturday when she heard a loud boom about 11 a.m.
“I knew it was a crash,” she said during a phone interview.
She saw smoke rising above the trees, then flames on the ground near the two houses across the runway.
The plane was already completely ruined, said Nelson, who walked over to the runway with her son immediately after hearing the crash.
Mary Kranz, 67, said she walked from her home in the airpark to the scene about 20 minutes after the crash. She said she has lived in the airpark with her husband, Paul, for 20 years.
It is a close community that is relatively quiet despite the air traffic, she said.
“Most of the people here in Falmouth don’t even know that we’re here,” Kranz said.
Stadelman said that in an effort to be good neighbors, the airpark does not allow aircraft over 5,000 pounds.
The SR22 weighs just under 2,300 pounds, according to the Cirrus Aircraft website. It is 26 feet long and almost 9 feet high.
Stadelman said the FAA and local authorities had control of the airfield Saturday, but the Airpark Housing Association would reopen it when it regained command.
He said members of the airpark were saddened by the loss.
“Our thoughts go out to the victims that are involved in this,” Stadelman said. “Everybody’s just in a somber mood right now.”