A day after a twin-engine plane crashed into an East Haven, Connecticut home, friends and neighbors gathered to hold a vigil for two young victims: half-sisters Sade Brantley, 13, and Madisyn Mitchell, 1, were inside the home and killed—the plane caught fire and burned part of the house down.
Sade Brantley and baby sister Madisyn Mitchell
Their mother, Joann Mitchell, 39, had also been inside the home and had screamed for help. Last night, she attended the vigil in Margaret Tucker Park; she did not speak, but she had posted on Facebook, "My heart is at a standstill. The feeling of emptiness engulfs me." She wrote of Sade, "My beautiful Angel, can't begin to imagine my life without you. You and Madisyn were my world... I take comfort in knowing that you and Madisyn are playing in heaven. But I would have given anything just to hold you again." She added, "Mommy will always love you … R.I.P. my sweet angels."
The other victims were the plane's pilot, Bill Henningsgaard, 54, of Medina, Washington, and his son Maxwell Henningsgaard, 17. The pair were reportedly touring East Coast colleges and Henningsgaard had flown from Teterboro Airport in NJ and was planning on landing at Tweed New Haven Airport. The airport is near East Haven, and Mitchell's neighbors said that planes fly over head every five minutes, "They are very loud, and you say to yourself, ‘Please stay up there, stay up there.' It’s scary sometimes. It is."
They also said the planes are low: Another neighbor described, "My mother lives in Florida and she flies in and out of Tweed all the time, and one time my kids and I were outside so she could wave to the kids as they were going by."
The NTSB is investigating the crash still, but it's believed the plane was inverted when it hit the home. According to the Courant, "The plane had a ground proximity warning system that, depending on the system model, could provide investigators with clues about the flight in the moments before the crash, including the position of the aircraft and airspeed, [investigator Patrick] Murray said. He said the plane was upside down, at a 60 to 70 degree angle, when it crashed into the homes."
Henningsgaard, a former Microsoft executive, had been in a plane crash in Oregon in 2009. He and his passenger, his mother, crashed into the water, and were saved. He later wrote in a post, "I’d like to tell you I felt brave and confident at that moment, that I knew we’d make it. But what I felt was fear. Fear of the exhaustion and panic and very possibly death as we tried for shore."