CT Plane Crash: Pilot Says Jordanian Student Downed Aircraft After ‘Argument’

Wreckage is removed from the scene of a twin-engine plane that struck a utility pole and burst into flames in downtown East Hartford, Connecticut U.S., October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Hartford, CT

The surviving pilot in a dramatic plane crash Tuesday afternoon says his co-pilot, a student from Jordan, intentionally crashed the plane following an argument with him, authorities have confirmed.

Arian Prevalla crawled out of the plane wreckage in time to survive the ensuing explosion, and law enforcement authorities in Hartford, Connecticut, say he is anticipated to make a full recovery. He has told his version of events to police, who say they have reason to believe his co-pilot, 28-year-old Feras M. Freitekh, meant to crash the plane.

Prevalla and Freitekh were flying a Piper PA-34 Seneca twin-engine plane as part of Freitekh’s aviation education on Tuesday when the plane crashed onto East Hartford’s Main Street. Prevalla has told law enforcement officials that Freitekh began to argue with him over control of the plane, and before he could wrest the plane from his hands, it had crashed. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Freitekh was coming in for a landing when he told the instructor that “something’s a little off here,” a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said. Mr. Prevalla, according to the official, “says, ‘Let me take over.’ And the kid comes in for a second time for a landing, or he doesn’t let him take over.”

Mr. Prevalla was becoming increasingly anxious, and as they made a second approach, he told Mr. Freitekh, “I’m taking over,” according to the official.

But apparently before the instructor could get control, Mr. Freitekh sent the plane into a nose-dive onto Main Street.

“Nothing’s off the table,” East Hartford police Lt. Josh Litwin told reporters on Wednesday, including terrorism, as the crash has been deemed an “intentional” one. Officials note, however, that Freitekh “was not on any terrorism watch list” and that no evidence at his residence has led officials to believe he was tied to international terrorist groups. Police have yet to investigate the content on his electronic devices.

Freitekh’s Facebook page, under the name “Rafael Majdi Feritekh,” does not appear to indicate that Freitekh publicly displayed any sympathy for Islamic or jihadist groups. It does appear to show a passion for flying aircraft, with his profile picture being an image of him kissing the nose of a plane.

Abdul-Rahman Freitekh, a cousin living in Jordan, told The New York Times that Freitekh “did not pray” and “religion was not an issue.”

“Unfortunately, this looks, at this point, like an individual who wanted to end his life and used this event to do it,” an unnamed law enforcement official told The Hartford Courant.