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Sunday 20 October 2019

Wartime US bomber crash leaves at least five dead

The B-17 crashed at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.

Emergency crews respond (Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant via AP)
Emergency crews respond (Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant via AP)
The scene near Bradley International Airport (Antonio Arreguin/AP)

By Chris Ehrmann and Dave Collins, Associated Press

A Second World War-era B-17 bomber with 13 people on board has crashed at a Connecticut airport, with a state official saying at least five people were killed.

The four-engine, propeller-driven plane struggled to get into the air and slammed into a maintenance shed at Bradley International Airport as the pilots circled back for a landing, officials and witnesses said.

It had 10 passengers and three crew members, authorities said.

Connecticut Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella said hours after the crash that some of those on board suffered severe burns and “the victims are very difficult to identify”.

The retired, civilian-registered plane was associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its Wings of Freedom vintage aircraft display to the airport this week, officials said.

“Right now my heart really goes out to the families who are waiting,” Gov Ned Lamont said.

“And we are going to give them the best information we can as soon as we can in an honest way.”

The plane was a few minutes into the flight when pilots reported a problem and said it was not gaining altitude, officials said. It lost control upon touching down and struck the shed.

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The scene near Bradley International Airport (Antonio Arreguin/AP)

One person on the ground was injured, officials said. The airport – New England’s second-busiest – was closed after the crash.

Flight records from FlightAware shows the plane went down about five minutes after it took off.

Only a few of the roaring Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses are still airworthy.

The planes, 74 feet long with a wingspan of 104 feet, were used in daylight strategic bombing raids against Germany during World War II – extremely risky missions that helped break the Nazi industrial war machine.

The Collings Foundation said that the same plane in Wednesday’s accident also crashed in 1987 at an air show near Pittsburgh, injuring several people.

Hit by a severe crosswind as it touched down, the bomber overshot a runway and plunged down a hillside. It was later repaired.

The B-17 was built in 1945, too late for combat in World War Two, according to the foundation.

It served in a rescue squadron and a military air transport service before being subjected to the effects of three nuclear explosions during testing, the foundation said.

It was later sold as scrap and eventually was restored. The foundation bought it in 1986.

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