A Connecticut state official said seven people died in the crash of a World War II airplane during an aborted takeoff from an airport in Hartford Wednesday.

Public safety Commissioner James Rovella said the six others who were on the airplane suffered injuries ranging from minor to critical. One person on the ground also was injured. 

The names of the victims have not been released.

The B-17 – also known as a Flying Fortress – crashed and burned Wednesday morning while attempting to land back at Bradley International Airport.

“We can confirm that there was an accident involving a Collings Foundation World War II aircraft this morning at Bradley Airport,” airport spokeswoman Alisa Sisic said in a statement to USA TODAY, noting Wednesday morning that a fire and rescue operation was underway.

The FAA said via Twitter that a vintage Boeing B-17 crashed at the end of Runway 6 while attempting to land at 10 a.m. local time.

The aircraft was not gaining altitude and attempted to return to the runway before losing control during touchdown, authorities said in the press conference. The plane struck tanks holding deicing fluid and a maintenance facility. 

Smoke fills the sky after a World War II-era bomber plane crashed on Oct. 2, 2019 outside Bradley International Airport north of Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo: AP)

Rebecca Stewart, director of news service at Hartford HealthCare told USA TODAY that Hartford Hospital received six patients, one of whom arrived via helicopter. 

Two of those patients were transported to the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital, which is about 50 miles away from Hartford Hospital, Jonathan Gates, chief of trauma at the hospital, told USA TODAY.

The Collings Foundation is an educational group that brought its “Wings of Freedom” vintage aircraft display to Bradley this week.

The vintage bomber – one of the most celebrated allied planes of World War II – was used to take history buffs and aircraft enthusiasts on short flights, during which they could get up and walk around the loud and windy interior.

The B-17 was one of only 18 in the nation, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during the press conference. 

In recordings of audio transmissions, the pilot told an air traffic controller that he needed to return to the airport and land immediately. Asked why, he said: “Number four engine, we’d like to return and blow it out.”

Brian Hamer, of Norton, Massachusetts, said he was less than a mile away when he saw a B-17, “which you don’t normally see,” fly directly overhead, trying to gain altitude but not succeeding.

One of the engines began to sputter, and smoke came out the back, Hamer said. The plane made a wide turn and headed back toward the airport, he said.

“Then we heard all the rumbling and the thunder, and all the smoke comes up, and we kind of figured it wasn’t good,” Hamer said. 

Bradley International Airport announced on social media at 1:48 p.m. EDT that the airport had officially reopened. 

Bradley International Airport has reopened. If you are scheduled to travel, please contact your airline to confirm the status of your specific flight.

FlightAware is showing 10 flight cancellations and 16 flight delays on flights headed to or from Hartford.

Bradley is relatively small but is served by most major airlines. 

American Airlines has 24 daily departures from Bradley. Two flights that were enroute to Hartford this morning were diverted to nearby airports, spokesman Ross Feinstein said.

Southwest Airlines has 13 daily departures from Bradley. Six took off before the incident, and the airline has canceled the remaining seven flights for today, spokesman Brad Hawkins said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into the crash, the agency announced on Twitter.

NTSB Go Team launching to investigate Wednesday’s crash of a B17 at Bradley International Airport, Connecticut. Team led by Board Member Jennifer Homendy.

The Collings Foundation did not provide details on the crash but did issue a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley,” the organization said in a written statement. “The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known.” 

The same plane also crashed in 1987 at an air show near Pittsburgh, injuring several people, the Collings Foundation said. Hit by a severe crosswind as it touched down, the bomber overshot a runway and plunged down a hill. It was later repaired.

Blumenthal said that he believes there should be increased security and oversight for vintage planes.

“The flying public need to be assured that (the planes) are properly maintained,” Blumenthal told USA TODAY.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Chris Ehrmann, Dave Collins, lohud.com

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