Pilot: Jeffrey Buckalew was killed in the crash, along with his wife, two children and business partner
A piece of the plane hangs from a tree near to Interstate 287 where the aircraft crashed on Tuesday
A Manhattan investment banker, his wife and their two kids died Tuesday when their plane spiraled from the sky and exploded before horrified commuters on a New Jersey interstate.
One of the banker’s co-workers also died in the fiery crash along Route 287 in suburban Harding, N.J., as all five passengers aboard the doomed flight perished.
Despite heavy traffic on the Morris County highway, there were no fatalities on the ground after the plane burst into flames upon impact.
Greenhill & Co. Managing Director Jeffrey F. Buckalew, a licensed pilot and the plane’s owner, was killed along with colleague Rakesh Chawla when their Georgia-bound flight plummeted to earth.
Buckalew’s wife and their two children were aboard the plane when it began pitching wildly in the sky before losing a wing and crashing into a wooded median, the company said.
“Jeff was one of the first employees of Greenhill,” said a company statement. “He and Rakesh were extraordinary professionals who were highly respected by colleagues and clients alike.”
A garbled transmission preceded the sudden and devastating plunge, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
A wing from the plane was found in the tree of a home about a quarter-mile from the point of impact, and witnesses said the craft appeared to fall apart in mid-flight.
Wreckage was scattered across a half-mile stretch.
“It was like the plane was doing tricks or something, twirling and flipping,” said Chris Covello of Rockaway Township. “It started going straight down.
“I thought any second they were going to pull up. But then the wing came off and they went straight down.”
Shona Sternberg, who was driving on the heavily-traveled highway, said she could see the plane was in trouble as she headed along I-287.
“You see something happening, you know it’s going to crash, and you can’t do anything,” she told the Newark Star-Ledger.
Sternberg was about three car lengths away from the spot where the plane went down.
“There was a lot of fire and big, black smoke,” the witness told the Star-Ledger. “I could smell burning, burnt rubber.”
The charred remains of the single-engine Socata TBM-7000 were visible on the roadway. The turboprop plane exploded after hitting the wooded median between the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway.
“It was really scary,” said a third witness, 19-year-old David Williamson, who saw smoke coming off both wings before the plane slammed to earth.
The plane disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from nearby Teterboro Airport, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters.
The plane was headed for DeKalb Peachtree Airport near Atlanta.
The crash shut down traffic in both directions on the stretch of highway.