National Guard airman credited with helping some passengers escape B-17 crash
By DAVE COLLINS AND SUSAN HAIGH | Associated Press | Published: October 4, 2019
An airman with the Connecticut National Guard who was aboard a B-17 bomber that crashed at an airport helped other passengers escape the flames by using his fire-resistant gloves to open a hatch, officials said.
Seven people died when the plane, which had 13 people on board, crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on Wednesday morning. Chief Master Sgt. James Traficante, command chief for the 103rd Airlift Wing and a trained C-130 loadmaster, was trained in handling aircraft emergencies and brought his military-issued gloves on the flight. He was treated at a hospital and has been recovering at home, the Guard said Thursday in a statement.
Investigators have begun securing evidence, including the engine in which the pilot had reported a problem, National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference. As part of the investigation, she said, they also will 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.
Bridgeport Hospital officials said that one survivor who arrived in serious condition was upgraded Thursday to fair condition, and that two others there were still in fair condition. All three suffered burns and broken bones.
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.
The vintage bomber — also known as a Flying Fortress, one of the most celebrated Allied planes of World War II — was used to take history buffs and aircraft enthusiasts on short flights, during which they could get up and walk around the loud and windy interior.
One patient injured in the crash remained at Hartford Hospital, officials said.
Associated Press reporters Joseph Frederick and Chris Ehrmann in Windsor Locks and Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report. Stars and Stripes also added information to this report.