BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Two planes collided in midair Wednesday, showering debris onto a southern New Jersey neighborhood and setting fire to house where the bulk of one plane crashed through the roof. Eleven passengers on the planes were killed.
The smell of jet fuel and smoke still permeated the neighborhood nine hours later. Plane pieces investigators had circled in orange paint dotted several blocks.
Two occupants of the house most heavily damaged escaped unharmed after the morning crash. One plane had crashed through their garage roof, burning the house and charring the yard. The bodies of five victims were found inside.
"I heard a loud explosion, then a roar and the house shook, then immediately ignited," said Ed Trzaskawka, who escaped with his wife, Cathy, seconds later.
The Federal Aviation Administration was classifying the crash as a midair collision, said spokeswoman Arlene Salac. The agency and the National Transportation Safety Board were interviewing witnesses and examining wreckage to determine what happened.
One plane, a Piper Navajo, carried seven civilian Navy employees and two crew members for a private contractor, New Jersey State Police Maj. Barry Roberson said.
The flight was a daily shuttle from the Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station to Trenton and to Patuxent River Naval Air Station, about 60 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., said Lakehurst spokesman Lawrence Lyford.