A pilot with more than 7,000 hours of experience flying a B-17 and his co-pilot were among seven people killed when the bomber crashed after encountering mechanical trouble on takeoff.
Pilot Ernest McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, California, had flown for over 20 years with the educational group that owned the Second World War-era plane and was also its safety officer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Five passengers were killed along with Mr McCauley and the co-pilot, Michael Foster, 71, of Jacksonville, Florida, according to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Investigators have begun securing evidence, including the engine in which the pilot had reported a problem, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.
They will also look into witness reports that work was being done on one or two of the engines prior to takeoff.
The plane had last been through a major inspection in January 2019, she said.
NTSB board Member Jennifer Homendy and investigator Dan Bower at the scene Wednesday of the crash of a B-17 at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. pic.twitter.com/uDblzYtiJl— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) October 2, 2019
Among the passengers killed was Gary Mazzone, 60, of East Windsor, who was a history and military buff, according to his son, Daniel Mazzone.
He did not know of his father’s plans to ride the B-17, he said, but knew why he would be interested.
“I think he just wanted to see what it was like to be in the back of a B-17,” Daniel Mazzone said. “He loved the Second World War. He loved people who served this country in any capacity.”
Mr Mazzone, a father of three children and two stepdaughters, retired in January as a prosecutor’s office inspector and previously was a Vernon police officer for 22 years.
“We’re all very sad… and we’re very sad for his family,” Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said.
“He was a good investigator. He was a good inspector. And he was a very good and helpful colleague.”
The wife of Robert Riddell, an insurance company analyst from East Granby, Connecticut, said she was devastated by the loss of her husband, Robert.
Mr Riddell had posted a photo from inside the plane just before takeoff.
Debra Riddell was at the airport herself and watched with dread as the plane struggled.
“As soon as it fell behind the hangar, I just had this really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just sensed that that plane was going to go down. I knew it, was certain of it,” she said.
The other passengers killed in the flight were James Roberts, 48, of Ludlow, Massachusetts, David Broderick, 56, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, and Robert Rubner, 64, of Tolland, Connecticut.
The flight engineer Mitchell Melton, 34, of Dalhart, Texas, survived with injuries. Five other passengers on the plane were injured along with Andrew Sullivan, 28, an airport employee who was on the ground near the site of the accident.
An airman with the Connecticut National Guard who was aboard the B-17 bomber helped other passengers escape the flames by using his fire-resistant gloves to open a hatch, officials said on Thursday.
The airman has training in handling emergencies on aircraft and had brought his military-issued gloves on the flight, according to the Guard.
The airman was treated at a hospital and has been recovering at home and his name has not been released.