One person was killed Friday afternoon when a small plane crashed into a rural Hamilton Township neighborhood, bursting into flames and scattering debris, neighbors and officials said.
The plane crashed shortly after 5 p.m. near Cypress Street and Columbia Road in the Laureldale section of the township, near the Atlantic City Expressway.
Deputy Mayor Roger Silva said one person died in the crash. Authorities had not identified the victim or the plane as of press time. But the airplane's tail, which was among the debris scattered across several properties, had an identifying registration number. The number - N174BK - identified the plane's owner as Anthony. C. Kelly, of Sewell, Gloucester County, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database.
It was unclear whether Kelly was the pilot and the lone casualty Friday. A woman answering the telephone at his residence would not speak to a reporter.
Neighbors said pieces of the plane began falling off before it crashed.
Keith Lang, of Orange Street, said he was in his bedroom when he heard loud bangs on the roof. Debris from the plane - including the canopy - fell onto the house and into the backyard, but no serious damage occurred, he said.
"It was scary because it happened right outside of my window," he said. "I went out there hoping not to find (the victim)."
The plane crashed about three miles from Atlantic City International Airport, said Kristi Miller, spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
It was unclear whether the plane was headed toward the airport in Egg Harbor Township.
FAA spokeswoman Holly Baker said officials did not yet know what caused the small plane to crash and were investigating.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which handles all civilian plane accidents, was investigating.
According to the plane's FAA number, the aircraft was a 2006 fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft, an RV-7A manufactured by Van's Aircraft. The two-seater measured slightly more than 20 feet long, according to the manufacturer's website.
Columbia Road resident Jamie Dougherty was walking her dog Lilly when she heard the plane sputter and descend.
"I knew it was in trouble, and then I heard an explosion," she said. " It was a big explosion. I don't know how else to explain it."
The area is heavily wooded, and she couldn't see the plane over the trees.
Brian Mohr, 52, lives along Columbia Road and said his 13-year-old son heard the crash.
"He just said it was 'errrrrr - boom,' and it went silent," Mohr said. "He didn't see anything. Me, I was just coming home and I was coming down Route 50 and I saw all of these helicopters."
Another neighbor, Rich DeFeo, said he saw a yellow single-wing plane sputtering in the air. At first he thought the pilot was doing tricks, but then when it got lower and behind the trees he know it wasn't doing tricks that low.
The next thing he heard was a huge explosion.
The area is a few miles from Atlantic City International, and it's common for planes to fly over the community, DeFeo said, but not single-wing planes.
South Jersey Transportation Authority acting Executive Director Sam Donelson said two firetrucks were dispatched to the scene from Atlantic City International.
"It appears it was headed in this general direction, but we don't have any confirmation of the final destination," Donelson said.
On Nov. 21, 2007, Kelly crashed a Cessna 172 into a wooded area in Hamilton, about six miles from Atlantic City International. He was flying from Ocean City to Cross Keys Airport in Monroe Township, Gloucester County, when he called air traffic control at Atlantic City to report engine problems, the Coast Guard told a reporter for The Press of Atlantic City in 2007.
He was not seriously injured in that crash, nor were his two passengers, Robert Stavola, 39, and Nicholas Stavola, 14, both of Cherry Hill, Camden County, the Coast Guard said at the time.
Contact Joel Landau:
@landaupressofac on Twitter
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
@ACPressJennifer on Twitter
Contact Derek Harper:
@dnharper on Twitter