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Pilot Killed, Several Houses Damaged After Small Plane Crashes Into N.J. Home

COLONIA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - A Cessna 414A small plane crashed into a home in Colonia, New Jersey, setting three buildings on fire Tuesday morning.

The FAA said the twin-engine plane crashed into the home at 84 Berkley Avenue at around 11 a.m. Home security camera footage captures the plane falling from the sky.

"It was this huge explosion and this whole house shook," neighbor Jane Pagano said. "Everybody was running out to see what it was."

The family who lives at the home wasn't there when it happened.

Another video of the crash.

Posted by Michael Yonone on Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Fire erupted at the home that was hit and quickly spread to two neighboring homes. Up to 200 firefighters from nine different firehouses battled the fires.

Watch: NTSB Briefing On Fatal Small Plane Crash

Only the pilot was on board, officials said, and no one on the ground was injured. The NTSB confirmed the pilot was killed in the crash.

Thomas Madden, a friend who is also a pilot, came to see the wreckage for himself.

"Somebody texted me and said, 'hey, that was Mike Schloss' and I was like, wow, are you kidding me? It really is a shock," he said.

Madden said his friend, who was also a New York City cardiologist, was an experienced pilot.

"To fly a sky raider is, you know, it's, not many people can do that," he said.

The flight originated from Leesburg, Virginia, and was bound for Linden Airport, a mere 3.5 miles away from where the plane went down.

Colonia Small Plane Crash
A small plane crashed into a home in Colonia, N.J. (credit: Facebook/Michael Yonone)

"Preliminary information shows that the pilot was communicating with air traffic control and was cleared for an approach into Linden Airport and the airplane subsequently lost radar contact and lost communications with the airplane," an NTSB official said.

It does not appear that the pilot made a distress call, the NTSB official said. In fact, the NTSB says he had been cleared for landing right before he lost contact with air traffic control.

Flight Aware shows the pilot stalled minutes before landing at Linden. It also shows this was the plane's third flight this week.

The fires were brought under control by around 12:30 p.m.

The plane was lodged in the back of the house it hit, Woodbridge Township Mayor John McCormac said.

"There was nobody home at the time, which was very fortunate. There was a car in the driveway, so everybody thought somebody was home, but nobody was home, they confirmed with the owner," said McCormac. "Right now, we don't believe any civilians on the ground were impacted by the crash."

Watch: Woodbridge Township Mayor On Small Plane Crash

McCormac called the response an "all hands on deck" situation.

"I heard a plane really, really low. Linden Airport isn't that far away so I knew that it was abnormally low. The sounds were really loud, and it seemed like, near the end, before there was a really loud bang, it kind of sputtered out a little bit. And then I just hear this loud bang and it shook the whole house," said neighbor Steven Smith. "We checked on the two houses next door and made sure there was no one there because the fire was 30 to 40 feet high or something."

Small Plane Crash In Colonia, N.J.
A home erupted in flames after a small plane crashed into it in Colonia, N.J. on Oct. 29, 2019. (credit: Image via CBS2)

"I saw all the flames going on all over there," said area resident George Brown. "It kind of looks like a volcano erupted."

"You hear this loud sound of boom, and it shook all the houses," said Kristen Sheldon, who lives in the area. "I've lived here 51 years, and I've never seen anything like this."

"So I was just... devastated. Hope nobody was in the house. So it was very, very scary," said neighbor Kelly Brown.

A couple who lives a few houses down called the homeowners with the horrible news.

"You need to get where you are and come here," said neighbor Amanda Krystofiak.

PSEG turned off gas to customers around the site of the crash and power to 400 customers in the area as a safety precaution, McCormac said.

Watch: CBS2's Dan Rice On Weather Conditions During Crash

CBS2's Dan Rice said that poor visibility and a low ceiling may have played a role in the crash. Rice said that weather conditions would've meant the pilot wouldn't have been able to see the airport and would have to rely on instruments on approach.

The FAA and NTSB officials are investigating the cause of the crash.

Crews in Colonia spent the night bulldozing the charred house to get to the plane, hoping to find out what went wrong during the doctor's final flight.

"It will be a piece-by-piece effort, and we expect it to take about two to three days. Given the weather conditions, it may take longer," said Adam Gerhardt, with the NTSB.

Woodbridge Township is hosting a fundraiser for the families impacted by the crash and fire. Woodbridge Township staff will be at the Evergreen Senior Center, located at 400 Inman Avenue in Colonia, on Oct. 30, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to receive donations. Checks payable to the Woodbridge Community Charity Fund and gift cards from established wholesale/retail outlets will be accepted.

In addition, one of the families who lost their home in the crash has set up a GoFundMe.

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