Burlington Township, NJ Two Planes Collide, Aug 2000
N.J. MIDAIR CRASH KILLS 11.
2 PLANES COLLIDE; HOME IS WRECKED.
Burlington Township, N.J. (AP) -- Two small planes collided in midair over southern New Jersey yesterday, killing all 11 passengers and crew on the aircraft but sparing people on the ground, authorities said.
No one was injured in the Burlington Township subdivision where the planes came down, even though one aircraft, a Piper Navajo, crashed into a house and set it on fire.
"Another few feet and it would have been in my ear," said Ed Trzaskawka, whose two-story brick-front home was destroyed. Trzaskawka, his wife, Cathy, and their dog escaped by running out the back door.
The Navajo, which carried seven passengers and two crew members, was a shuttle contracted by the Navy to transport civilian workers from the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station in New Jersey to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. Two of the passengers boarded during a stopover at Mercer County Airport.
The other plane, a Piper Seminole, had departed from Northeast Philadelphia Airport with a flight instructor, who was a police officer, and a student to do training exercises. The plane and the bodies were recovered in a soybean field a half-mile north of the crash site in the Steeplechase development.
The 8 a.m. collision sent neighbors running as pieces of the aircraft rained down on the area.
"I saw a mushroom cloud and heard debris falling around the house. There was so much debris in the air it looked like a tornado," said Steve Cotterman, 48.
He said he dashed out of his house to see what had happened and stumbled on a gruesome trail of wreckage that included body parts.
"It sounded like really bad thunder, and then there was a huge bang," said neighbor Kim Varava, 29, who described the Trzaskawka house as "all flames, tons and tons of fire, the whole garage."
Varava said it was a miracle no one on the ground was hurt, especially because there are so many children in the area. "If you just look on the street, there's tons of engine parts. Any one of them could have hit a kid," she said.
The flight instructor was identified as CRAIG ROBINSON, 28, a Washington Township police officer. He is survived by his wife, Tara, and a 7-month-old son.
Five of the bodies from the Navajo were recovered from the crash site at the Trzaskawka home, three were found in an athletic field and another fell through the roof of a garage a block away, according to New Jersey State Police Maj. Barry Roberson.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the accident. The small planes do not carry so-called black boxes that record flight data, officials said.
The National Weather Service said skies were cloudy with visibility of 10 miles at the time of the crash.
Navy officials identified the passengers on the Navajo as:
ANGELO GEORGE, of Toms River, N.J., a program manager.
CYNTHIA KOVACS, of Robbinsville, N.J., a mechanical engineer.
ROBERT POLO, of Barnegat, N.J., a logistics management specialist.
MICHAEL SIMODEJKA, of Toms River, N.J., a logistics management specialist.
JOHN VAIL, JR., of Howell, N.J., a program manager.
JOHN ZUKOW, of Toms River, N.J., an engineering technician.
DAVID DAHLEN, of Warminister, Pa., a contractor with Naval Inventory Control Point.
The crew members were:
DANIEL GROFF and JOSEPH MARI, employed by Patuxent AIrways of California, Md.
The name of the student on the Seminole was not immediately released, but he was described as a licensed pilot who was working on his commercial license.
New York Daily News 2000-08-10