At least three people were confirmed dead Tuesday after a small plane headed for Georgia crashed on Interstate 287 in northern New Jersey, apparently spiraling out of control before hitting the median strip and exploding.
New Jersey State Police Lt. Stephen Jones told the Associated Press that the death toll could go as high as five.
“There was a lot of fire and big black smoke,” Shona Sternberg, a witness who was reportedly three cars behind where the plane hit the ground, told the Star-Ledger newspaper. “I could smell burning, burnt rubber. You see something happening, you know it’s going to crash and you can’t do anything.”
Sternberg added that the plane – which FAA officials say was a Socata TBM-700 single-engine turboprop – appeared to be in trouble before it crashed.
“Something was breaking off the plane as it was coming down. It was coming down fast. It looked like the right wing was breaking off.”
Following the horrific crash, helicopter footage from News 12 New Jersey showed charred wreckage, and state police said that interstate 287 – one of New York City area’s busiest routes – was closed in both directions.
The registered address of the plane shows it appeared to be owned by Jeffrey Buckalew, a certificated pilot of single engine planes, The Bergen Record reported. It is unknown of Buckalew was piloting the plane at the time of the crash.
Local news footage from the New Jersey plane crash can be seen in the short clip below: