Two Killed, Three Survive Jet Crash Off Into Long Island Sound

The small jet was making its final approach for landing at Groton-New London Airport when it struck a landing light platform.

Three Hampton Roads men escaped a private jet after it crashed into Long Island Sound while trying to land in heavy fog Friday.

"All were alert and oriented and in good spirits," said Bruce Cummings, a spokesman for Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., where the men were taken. "They received only minor injuries."

The pilot and co-pilot of the Learjet died, however, Connecticut State Police said. Their names, as well as those of the survivors, were not immediately released.

The small jet was making its final approach for landing at Groton-New London Airport , said Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, when it struck a landing light platform.

The three middle-age passengers got out of the plane on their own, the Coast Guard said. They were picked up by local watermen who heard the aircraft go down.

Bill Stanley, another spokesman for Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, said the survivors were coated with jet fuel.

He said they were ?very fortunate to be alive.? The men told medical personnel they got out only after one of them forced open the door .

Cummings said Friday evening that the three were being held only for observation.

He characterized their injuries as ?bumps and bruises.?

The jet, owned by a Virginia Beach-based firm headed by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, was on a charter flight managed by a company that leased the aircraft.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, was not aboard.

Angell Vasko, a CBN spokeswoman in Virginia Beach, said that none of the passengers were associated with Robertson or any CBN activities.

?I am deeply grieved and my heart reaches out to the families and to the people on the plane,? Robertson said Friday evening.

?I ask that everyone join us in praying for the families of the people involved in this tragic situation,? he said.

Cooper said the passengers were en route to a charity golf tournament at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in nearby Mashantucket, Conn.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the Learjet 35A with tail number N182K, was built in 1980 and is registered to Robertson Asset Management Inc., a fund management firm owned by the founder of CBN but not affiliated with CBN.

Vasko said Robertson rarely used the aircraft, however, and that it had been leased to International Jet Charter, an aircraft charter and management company based at Norfolk International Airport.

That company coordinated Friday?s flight. Company officials declined to comment .

The charter flight, with five passengers and the two-member crew, took off from Norfolk at 12:39 p.m. Two passengers got off in Atlantic City, N.J.

The plane crashed about 2:10 p.m., Cooper said, ?in a time of very poor visibility; very foggy conditions.?

The jet was about to land at the Groton-New London Airport when it struck one of several runway approach lights that are mounted on platforms in Long Island Sound.

The lights, designed to flash in succession, point pilots to a runway.

?The one he hit was about 1,600 feet from the runway,? Cooper said. It stood about 20 feet above the water, he said.

The jet came to rest, upside down, ?in three to five feet of water,? Cooper said. ?It?s visible, and it?s not broken up.?

Why the aircraft was low enough to hit the landing light structure was not known.

The area had been hit by a series of sometimes rough thunderstorms that began moving through Thursday night. However, Cooper said there was no word that there had been any severe weather .

?The only report I got was of the foggy conditions,? he said.

Cooper said there were witnesses , including people who got into their boats ?and went out to the crash site and rescued two of the passengers? from the 60-degree water .

Local resident Rachel Waszkelewicz told WTNH-TV that she heard the crash and ran out of her house and onto her dock .

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