EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A flight instructor and a student pilot had an altercation inside the cockpit of a small plane, and the instructor was unable to regain control from the trainee before the plane crashed near the headquarters of a military jet engine manufacturer, killing the student, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation into what happened said Wednesday.
The crash appeared to have been a suicide attempt by the student, and terrorism was ruled out, the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The Piper PA-34 Seneca crashed with the two men aboard during a training flight Tuesday in East Hartford near the headquarters of Pratt & Whitney while returning to Brainard Airport in Hartford, authorities said. The flight instructor was badly burned but survived.
The instructor described the student pilot as disgruntled about learning to be a pilot, the U.S. official said.
The flight instructor is Arian Prevalla, and the student was Feras Freitekh, said a law enforcement official, who wasn’t authorized to disclose the information and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Prevalla’s social media pages indicate he’s president of the American Flight Academy and a managing member of the Hartford Jet Center, both based in Hartford. The pages say he is from Albania and lives in Hartford.
On LinkedIn, Prevalla said he received a bachelor’s degree in aviation science from Mountain State University, a now-defunct university in Beckley, West Virginia.
Public records show Freitekh received a private pilot certificate last year from the Federal Aviation Administration. They also indicate he lived in the Chicago suburb of Orland Hills since 2013, but authorities there said that there was no record he ever lived in the village but that he received mail there at the home of a friend of his father, who worked for a container company in a nearby town.
Safety officials said the FBI was taking over as lead investigator of the crash because of indications it was an intentional act. The National Transportation Safety Board said its initial investigation indicated the crash was deliberate.
The survivor told police detectives it was not an accident, Democratic Mayor Marcia Leclerc said.
“It’s troubling,” Leclerc said. “But I also know that stories change and information can be skewed. We’re waiting for the facts to come out.”
Authorities said the student and the instructor were about to land at Brainard Airport when the plane struck a utility pole and crashed onto a road Tuesday afternoon, bursting into flames. The crash site is a short distance from the airport, across the Connecticut River and in line with the runway.
Police Chief Scott Sansom said the path the plane took “could have been much worse.”
“So we’re very fortunate in that sense,” he said.
The police chief initially asked the FBI to assist in the investigation because it happened so close to Pratt & Whitney. The company said its operations weren’t affected by the crash and none of its employees was involved.
Police said Prevalla was hospitalized with serious burns and is expected to live. The medical examiner’s office was expected to perform an autopsy on Freitekh.
In Hartford, authorities were investigating an apartment in connection with the plane crash, police said.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, briefed by the state police commissioner, said he had not decided to beef up security anywhere in light of the crash.
“I’m not aware of any specific threats associated with this action,” Malloy said.
Associated Press writers Joan Lowy in Washington, Denise Lavoie in Boston and Michael Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.