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World War II-era bomber that crashed in Connecticut was to appear in Westminster; Carroll event canceled

Karen and Hank Buschman of Eldersburg prepare to walk through a B-17 bomber during the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour at the Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Karen's father, John Hardesty, 96, was a bombardier on a B-17 in WWII where he was shot down on his second mission and held by Germany as a prisoner of war for 10 months.
Karen and Hank Buschman of Eldersburg prepare to walk through a B-17 bomber during the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour at the Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Karen's father, John Hardesty, 96, was a bombardier on a B-17 in WWII where he was shot down on his second mission and held by Germany as a prisoner of war for 10 months.(DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Before an antique B-17 bomber could arrive in Carroll County as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour, it crashed shortly after taking off in Connecticut on Wednesday.

The World War II-era plane crashed into an airport building as it was trying to land, bursting into flames at Bradley International Airport, officials said. The crash reportedly killed at least seven people and injured seven others.

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Mark Myers, Carroll County Regional Airport manager, said that same plane was scheduled to land at the Westminster airport next week as part of a stop on the Wings of Freedom Tour, which offers walkthrough tours and in-air flight experiences with a collection of vintage aircraft.

Myers confirmed Thursday afternoon that the Carroll tour stop, originally scheduled for Oct. 10-13, has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.

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Dennis Gore, general coordinator for Wings of Freedom Maryland, is involved with organizing the annual Carroll event. He described the now-canceled event as “a big thing for us.”

The Collings Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the planes, specializes in what it describes as “living history events” throughout the country. The foundation’s website appeared to be offline Wednesday, and foundation representatives could not be reached for comment.

The Collings Foundation did not provide details on the crash but released a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley. The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known.”

This B-17 bomber has visited Westminster multiple times in the past, Myers said. “It’s a flying museum, it’s something that’s irreplaceable,” he said.

The B-17, built in 1944, was one of about 10 in the country considered to be airworthy.

Connecticut public safety Commissioner James Rovella confirmed there were 10 passengers and three crew members on the bomber Wednesday. One person on the ground was injured when the airplane struck a small building and tanks that hold de-icing fluid.

The airplane was largely consumed by the fire, which was fed by the aircraft’s fuel. The left wing and tail appear to be all that remains of the airplane. The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a “go team” to the airport to investigate the crash. The Connecticut State Police, the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are also investigating.

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said the plane took off about 9:45 a.m. and five minutes later the pilot called the control tower to report he was having a problem.

“We did observe that the aircraft was not getting any altitude,” Dillon said.

Sources told The Hartford Courant that at least seven people were killed in the crash and authorities fear the number will go higher. It took hours for rescuers to reach the front of the airplane where the pilot and co-pilot were seated.

Family members seeking information about loved ones were asked to call the Connecticut State Police message center at 860-685-8190.

Reporting from The Hartford Courant contributed to this article.

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