A Neptune man was killed last night when his single-engine airplane crashed and caught fire in a wooded area of Monmouth County, officials said.
Howell Township police tentatively identified the victim as Eugene R. Pilot, 70, Lt. Andy Kudrick said.
Pilot was flying a 1975 fixed-wing, single engine Piper PA28-151 when the crash occurred about 8 p.m., Kudrick said.
The aircraft was registered to Pilot, according to Kudrick and Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Murray.
The plane crashed west of the Garden State Parkway at the southwest corner of Cascades Avenue and West Shenandoah Road, in the Ramtown section of Howell, Kudrick said.
The aircraft clipped trees for about 250 feet before making a nose dive into the ground, the lieutenant said. The plane crashed upside-down, trapping the pilot inside.
The plane's fuselage, wings and tail sections were twisted but intact. Small pieces of the aircraft were scattered along the ground.
Pilot avoided crashing into a neighborhood. Beyond the woods where his plane went down is a large field.
Authorities early this morning could not provide details about where Pilot was coming from or heading. His car, however, was located at Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall Township, several miles northeast of the crash site.
The crash prompted numerous 911 calls, and several residents saw flames light the nighttime sky.
"I saw a bunch of fire, I saw a bunch of smoke," said Michael Fasano, 18, of Howell, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash as he was driving home from his job at a sporting goods store in Bordentown.
After the fire was put out, officials were able to inspect the aircraft for passengers but found Pilot was flying alone.
No one on the ground was injured in the crash, the FAA's Murray said. The fire did not spread to the woods.
Numerous agencies responded to the crash, including the Ramtown First Aid Squad, Ramtown Fire Company, Monmouth County fire marshal, State Police, the Howell fire bureau, the Howell Office of Emergency Management and representatives of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.
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