The death toll from a small plane crash on Long Island yesterday has risen to two victims, with a third in serious condition. The single-engine plane crashed in a yard in the suburban town of Shirley, in Suffolk County. No people on the ground were injured in the crash, which occurred around noon shortly after the plane took off from Brookhaven Calabro Airport, about a mile away. The plane struck a tree before the crash, narrowly missing several houses, and on witness tells the Times it "was like a fireball as soon as it hit the ground."
“I watched a man burn to death in front of my eyes," former Navy aviation mechanic Darnell Lee tells the Post. "This man fought to live, and there was just nothing we could do. It was awful. This man is a hero. You could see that he tried to avoid hitting my house. I respect this man. He died fighting. I wish I could meet his family and tell them this." Another witness, who tried to put out the fire with a garden hose, tells the tabloid, "The plane was upside down, so his feet were pinned. He was struggling to get himself out of the plane. He was on fire."
The pilot's name is still withheld pending family notification. But officials have confirmed that passenger Jane Unhjem, 60, of Goshen, N.Y., died at Stony Brook Hospital yesterday. Her hushand, Erik Unhjem, 61, is in serious condition. “I don’t know how a guy in that condition was even able to stand up, but all he cared about was his wife,’’ another witness tells the Post, describing Unhjem after the crash. “He was crying and saying, ‘My wife, my wife,’ over and over.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation.