In the days leading up to the Connecticut airplane crash, the pilot was described as irritable and agitated.
Arian Prevalla, the flight instructor who survived the October 11th East Connecticut airplane crash after a reported struggle with pilot Feras Freithekh, has been released from the hospital, after being treated for 3rd degree burns sustained in the crash.
According to the Hartford Courant, Prevalla was not available for further comment on the incident, and a lawyer for the American Flight Academy said that the flight school would not be commenting before the crash investigation is complete.
The FBI continues to investigate the case and has still found no evidence to suggest any links to terrorism.
In spite of the NTSB ruling that the plane crash involving pilot Feras Freithekh and flight instructor Arian Prevalla last week was “the result of an intentional act,” Connecticut’s chief medical examiner isn’t ready to identify the manner of death yet.
According to a report from the Hartford Courant, Dr. James Gill formally identified the body found in the wreckage as Freithekh and determined the cause of death to be burns and smoke inhalation. However, Gill said that the manner of death was still “pending further investigation of the circumstances.” There’s no word yet on why Gill isn’t ready to confirm the manner of death.
Prevalla, who suffered third-degree burns on 17% of his body, remains hospitalized in Bridgeport Hospital’s burn unit and is still listed in “fair” condition.
UPDATE: Though he has still apparently not been released from the hospital, crash survivor Arian Prevalla’s condition has been upgraded to fair. Two other people, in a minivan that was able to stop just short of colliding with the downed aircraft, were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries.
The FBI continues to investigate, and are planning to inspect electronic Freitekh’s electronic devices. Officials have still found no connection to terrorism, and believe the crash was a suicide, saying “Unfortunately, this looks, at this point, like an individual who wanted to end his life and used this event to do it.”
When asked if there were any need for increased security, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said that he was “not aware of any specific threats associated with this action.”
This past Tuesday around 3:40 PM, 28-year-old Feras Freitekh, a pilot going through additional training with flight instructor Arian Prevalla, 43, crashed the Piper PA-34 Seneca they were flying into Main Street in East Hartford, Connecticut. Freitekh was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, while Prevalla was taken to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for burns sustained in the crash, and is listed in fair condition.
After an initial investigation, the NTSB said that their findings “indicates the crash is the result of an intentional act,” and that in light of that information and according to established procedures, they are “in the process of transferring the lead for the investigation from NTSB to the FBI.” They added that should the FBI request additional help, they stood ready to support the investigation.
More Details on the Connecticut Airplane Crash
Prevalla, who is president of the American Flight Academy, moved to the USA from Albania and now lives in Hartford, Connecticut. Freitekh arrived in the U.S. in 2012 on an M1 visa for flight school and was issued a private pilot certificate in May 2015. It appears Freitekh was taking additional flying lessons in order to get his multi-engine rating, though this hasn’t been confirmed.
The two pilots took off Tuesday afternoon from a flight school at Hartford-Brainard Airport, less than 2 miles away from the crash, as the crow flies.
According to reports, in the cockpit before the crash, Prevalla and Freitekh had an altercation as Freitekh began to fly erratically, putting both of their lives in danger. Prevalla has said that Freitekh began stating that he no longer wanted to fly the plane, but did not explain why. As Freitekh became more distressed, Prevalla unsuccessfully attempted to wrestle control of the plane from Freitekh just before the crash.
In a report from the Hartford Courant, witness Jonathon Rucker said the Piper “dropped like a rock” to the streets below after making a sharp “tip” to the left, nearly guaranteeing that Freitekh would make contact first. The plane hit a utility pole and subsequently ignited. Freitekh had been making their final descent back to Hartford-Brainard Airport when the crash occurred, possibly waiting until the plane was closer to the ground to attempt to crash it before Prevalla would have time to react, or maybe to increase the chances of Prevalla surviving the crash.
As with most conventional small planes, the yoke is interconnected, or dual control, meaning wrestling control away from the pilot is a literal description of what may have happened inside the cockpit. Regardless, despite suffering severe burns, Prevalla was able to escape the plane after the crash. He was later transported to Bridgeport Hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
More on the Investigation into the Connecticut Airplane Crash
One of Freitekh’s cousins said he came to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, a dream that was realized only a year before the tragedy. After the NTSB released authority on the case over to the FBI, they conducted a thorough investigation that included raiding Freitekh’s apartment and questioning his roommates. The investigation, in conjunction with testimonies from friends and family, has so far determined that the crash was not related to terrorism, and was not meant to kill or destroy anyone, except Freitekh himself.
“He was a good person, kind and helpful,” Freitekh’s cousin said. “He wasn’t religious at all. He was open-minded.” People close to him mentioned that in the days leading up to the crash, Freitekh became increasingly irritable and depressed, but not enough to raise concern. Friends did mention that Freitekh was under a lot of self-imposed stress due to his less-than-perfect performance at the American Flight Academy.
Another area of initial concern was that the crash was close to the headquarters of aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, though initial finding haven’t indicated a connection. Pratt & Whitney released the following statement after the accident:
“We are aware of the incident that occurred this afternoon on Main Street. Our thoughts are with the people affected. It does not appear at this time that any Pratt & Whitney employees or contractors were involved. Additionally, there is no impact to our operation here in East Hartford other than restricted traffic flow to the facility’s main entrance on Main Street. We stand ready to assist local officials as needed. Additional queries should be directed to the appropriate local officials.”
Theories and conjectures aside, the truth of what happened in the cockpit that day may remain a mystery until Prevalla is back in good health and is released from the burn unit of the Bridgeport Hospital.
Featured Image: Flightlog, CC2 / Note: this is not an image of the actual aircraft that was involved in the crash.