'Nothing's Off the Table': Motive Not Clear in Intentional East Hartford Crash

The FBI has taken over the investigation.

What to Know

  • A small twin-engine Piper PA 34 plane crashed in East Hartford on Tuesday around 3:30 p.m.
  • The plane was carrying two people. One is dead, while the pilot was transported to the hospital.
  • Crash happened on Main Street near Pratt & Whitney and the street remains closed.

A plane crash in East Hartford, Connecticut, that killed a student pilot and left his instructor with serious injuries appears to have been the result of an intentional act, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. 

East Hartford police Lt. Josh Litwin said Wednesday that investigators had concluded the crash Tuesday afternoon was "an intentional act," but noted that they hadn't been able to determine a motive.

"Nothing's off the table," Litwin told reporters.

The FBI and NTSB are leading a joint investigation after the twin-engine Piper PA 34 crashed with the two men aboard during a training flight around 3:30 p.m. near the Connecticut headquaerters of military jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney.

The plane was on its final approach to Brainard Airport when it crashed on Main Street and burst into flames, according to the FAA.

A senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told NBC News the crash appears to have been a case of suicide, not terrorism. The official said the student pilot, identified as Feras M. Freitekh, was arguing with his instructor.

According to the official, the flight instructor told investigators that Freitekh, a Jordanian national, was at the controls at the time of the crash. Some kind of argument or struggle for the controls ensued, the official said, and the plane crashed. The instructor did not know why it happened.

The flight instructor was identified as Arian Prevalla, the owner of American Flight Academy in Hartford -- formerly known as Connecticut Flight Academy. Prevalla escaped from the burning plane and was in fair condition Thursday at Yale-New Haven Bridgeport Hospital's burn unit, a hospital spokesman said.

He is expected to survive and is speaking with investigators, officials said.

arian prevalla
Arian Prevalla, survived the crash of a plane in East Hartford on Tuesday. He is being treated at the Bridgeport Hospital Burn Unit and is speaking to investigators about the crash.

Illinois police said Wednesday that Freitekh was in the U.S. on a student visa to obtain his pilot license. Orland Hills Police Chief Thomas Scully said Freitekh used his father's friend's local address but the student pilot had never been to Orland Hills. 

"He would come from Jordan directly to the flight school and his dad continued to make money to pay for his training,” Chief Thomas Scully said. “When he ran out he would go back to Jordan."

Police searched Freitek's Hartford-area home but did not find anything to indicate any terrorist interests or sympathies, a senior federal official told NBC News' Pete Williams. He was also not on any terrorism watch list, the official added. The FBI will seek a search warrant for any computers the student pilot had to see what clues they might hold, if any.

Pratt & Whitney released a statement Tuesday saying the crash did not appear to involve any of its employees or contractors.

Main Street was closed between Willow Street Extension and Ensign Street on Tuesday and Wednesday, but most of the street has reopened. Utility crews are fixing the light post and make repairs to the lines before reopening the right lane. 

The crash was also near American Eagle Financial Credit Union, which is running on generator power as utility poles are installed on Main Street. The drive-through is closed, but the lobby and ATM are open.

While investigators from several agencies are there, police said they want to reassure neighbors that the scene is safe and secure.

A mother and her three daughters who also witnessed the crash, were taken to the hospital as a precaustion but all were released. 

Investigators said it's fortunate there were no additional deaths.

"The path that the plane took could have been much worse, so we're fortunate in that sense," said Scott Sansom, East Hartford's police chief.

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