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Small Plane Crashes, Scatters Debris In Syosset; 3 Dead

SYOSSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A single-engine plane went down on a Syosset, Long Island road Tuesday afternoon, leaving all three people on board dead.

The Beechcraft 35 aircraft crashed on the street at 192 Cold Spring Rd. around 3:40 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane broke into pieces, and parts of the aircraft were scattered around several different places.

Nassau County police confirmed there were three people on the plane and all of them were killed. Two of the victims' bodies were found near the plane and a third was found behind the school, police said.

There were no reports of injuries on the ground.

Authorities cordoned off a one square-mile area and amid a significant debris field. CBS2 walked through the debris field seeing part of a leather seat, a smashed windshield and a wing strewn around the neighborhood.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, a federal investigator arrived on the scene just after sunset to discover the wreckage and bodies spread over 2 miles of suburbia.

The plane had taken off from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and was headed to Robinson Field in Plainville, Connecticut, officials said.

The plane fell out of a low overcast just after the pilot declared an emergency.

"Partial panel. We've lost our vacuum system, sir," the pilot can be heard saying in tower audio.

Emergency crews responded to numerous 911 calls, and nearby schools were put on lockdown.

Neighbors on the residential block reported hearing an unusual sputtering sound and a violent crack.

"I heard it come down; it was like gunshots, right two houses down. I was in the kitchen," one woman said. "I'm freaking out right now."

"There was debris everywhere – in my backyard, in the neighbors' backyard, in the front yard – so it's just very upsetting," another woman said.

The scene of the crash is a short distance from the campuses of three schools – South Woods Middle School, Syosset High School, and Berry Hill Elementary School.

Members of high school sports teams told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan they were sitting ducks.

"I was walking from the high school – I just got out – and I was in the sports fields. I just hear, you know, this plane kind of coming low, like, 'Eeerrr!' Like then like, I just assumed it was flying low, and I just hear, like, this loud, 'Boom!'" one boy said. "And I kept hearing it go afterwards, it was like something happened, but then I just see debris raining down, like there's this piece of fuselage kind of piece, and then like some other smaller pieces."

"I was on the sports field – I had lacrosse practice today – and all of a sudden, we heard this, 'Bbbbbb!' and then, we were like, I didn't know what it was, and I look up, and there's pieces literally falling out of the sky," a girl added. "And I knew my house – my house is right over there – and there's literally pieces scattered everywhere, and girls were crying, and it was so terrifying."

Another woman told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall her son called her from the middle school.

"And said while we were playing at lacrosse practice, we actually saw the plane go down and we saw pieces," she said. "Terrible."

Ethan Seidner was in his house when he heard the crash and saw debris come sprinkling out of the grey cloud cover.

"It looked like a bunch of pieces of scrap metal just falling from the sky slowly," he said.

The cause of the plane crash was not known late Tuesday afternoon. But CBS2's Lonnie Quinn, who is a pilot, said wind could not have played a role given that wind speeds were less than 10 mph throughout the area.

But fog and clouds on Long Island Tuesday afternoon made for 2 miles' visibility and cloud ceilings of only 800 feet – which make for poor conditions for flying, Quinn reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board said this was the seventh small plane crash on Long Island just this year.

The plane was owned by a Bristol, Connecticut man whose family was still trying to absorb the news on Tuesday night.

He told the air traffic control tower in Farmingdale that he plane was having instrument problems, always a potential disaster in low visibility conditions.

"The best analogy I can give is driving in fog. Driving in fog, you need your lights, you need your instruments," NTSB investigator Robert Gretz said.

The instruments were failing. One of the last exchanges between the pilot and the town indicated that he knew he was in trouble.

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