NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A small plane had been spotted flying low on Tuesday morning (Oct 29) just before it fell from the sky and through the roof of a suburban New Jersey home, officials said.
Fog and light drizzle blanketed the township of Woodbridge as the plane plummeted, clipping the tops of trees and the roof of one home before slamming into another, Mayor John E. McCormac said.
The plane pierced the roof of the second home before coming to rest in the basement, igniting a fire that quickly engulfed the two-storey structure and spread to two adjacent homes, McCormac said.
The pilot, the sole occupant of the plane, was killed in the crash, according to a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
"It had to come in straight down," McCormac said.
"It's miraculous that nobody was hurt on the ground."
The mayor said a neighbour described seeing the plane flying lower than normal just before hearing a deafening crash.
The plane, which originated in Leesburg, Virginia, had been headed for Linden Airport, a municipal airport about 40km south-west of midtown Manhattan, McCormac said.
The couple who lived in the home were at work, and their child was at school, McCormac said.
The woman who lives in a neighbouring house on Berkley Avenue in Colonia, which is part of Woodbridge, heard the noise and fled before the fire reached her home, he added.
"The house was completely engulfed," he said. "Thank God no one was home."
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators were headed to the site to investigate what caused the plane, a Cessna 414, to crash.
Officials at Linden Airport, which is about 8km north-east of Colonia, said they had no additional information about the plane or the crash.
The Cessna went down in a quiet residential neighbourhood, not far from an elementary school. The school was not evacuated, but students were dismissed just after 1pm because power was temporarily cut off in the area, officials said.
Hours after the crash, neighbours were still standing on front lawns and under tents that were set up by emergency workers.
"The house is half-missing, and it's all black," said David Kaca, 19, who returned home from class at Seton Hall University to find the neighbourhood filled with smoke.