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Fiery crash at Hanscom Field leaves 7 dead

A private plane ran off a runway at Hanscom Field, causing it to erupt in flames.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Johnson

A private plane ran off a runway at Hanscom Field, causing it to erupt in flames.

BEDFORD — A private plane carrying seven people ran off a runway Saturday night at Hanscom Field and burst into flames. All seven died, officials said.

The plane, a Gulfstream IV headed to Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, was departing from Hanscom Runway 11 at about 9:40 p.m., according to Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Sharon Williams, the Hanscom Field director, said early Sunday morning that families of the victims were being notified.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to them tonight,” she said.

The identities of the victims were not released early Sunday. Williams did provide any other information about the victims.

The plane exploded in a blast that sent a fireball and a large plume of black smoke into the air, said Bedford resident Jeff Patterson, 43, who lives beside the runway. The flames rose 60 feet in the air, he said. His 14-year-old son, Jared, said the explosion rattled the house.

“I heard a big boom, and I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house because it shook it,” said Jared Patterson. “I thought someone was, like, banging on the door trying to get in.”

Firefighters arrived quickly at the scene and were able to extinguish the flames in a short time, the Pattersons said. Still, the damage to the plane was extensive.

From parking lots behind office buildings on Hartwell Avenue in Lexington, smoke could be seen rising from the airport grounds at the end of the runway, lit by floodlights and flashing emergency lights.

The airport was closed after the crash as emergency personnel arrived, according to Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Williams said the airport would remain closed indefinitely. She also said that more information would be released around 8 a.m. Sunday.

Peters said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, and that the NTSB would determine the probable cause of the accident.

Police and firefighters from Bedford and Lexington were at the scene Saturday night, along with a hazardous materials team, police officials said.

An ambulance could be seen driving toward the runway about an hour after the crash. Otherwise, the runway was dark. An American flag fluttered in the cold wind. Smoke from the crash could be smelled several miles to the southeast in Lexington. It hung in the air in the streets closer to the crash.

Two state troopers stood guard at a gate at an entrance to the airfield early Sunday morning, occasionally waving in vehicles, which then drove past several small planes, and down an access road into the darkness along the airfield.

The main entrance to the civilian airfield at the Air Force Base was closed off by state troopers.

L.G. Hanscom Field was built during World War II on 500 acres of land in the towns of Bedford, Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln, according to MassPort.

The facility operates jointly as a public general aviation airport and as a resource for the adjacent Hanscom Air Force Base. Officials said the plane was on Bedford property.

An image from the scene at Hanscom Field.

Martin Finucane/Globe Staff

An image from the scene at Hanscom Field.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com. Jeremy Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.

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