Feds say East Hartford plane crash was ‘intentional’

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday an initial investigation of Tuesday’s plane crash in East Hartford “indicates the crash is the result of an intentional act.”

The NTSB, usually the lead investigative agency in an accident involving trains or planes or other modes of public transportation, said it is “in the process of transferring the lead for the investigation from NTSB to the FBI.”

“The NTSB stands ready to support the FBI’s investigation should a request be made for agency expertise,” the agency said in a terse statement issued mid-day Wednesday.

The Piper PA 34 crashed around 3:40 p.m. on Main Street as it was on a final approach to Hartford-Brainard Airport, near the Pratt & Whitney facility in East Hartford.

Aboard was a flight instructor, Arian Prevalla, and his student, identified as Feras M. Freitekh, 28. Freitekh was killed in the crash and Prevalla badly injured.

News reports have said that Prevalla told investigators the crash was not an accident.

The New York Times said Freitekh had lived in Orland Hills, Ill., about 35 miles southwest of Chicago. Federal Aviation Administration records show he was issued a private pilot certificate on May 29, 2015, and was certified to fly a single-engine plane.

The New Haven office of the FBI is leading the investigation, although the Chicago office is also involved, “chasing down a few leads,” according to agency spokesman Garrett Croon.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told reporters in Hartford he was briefed on the crash, but he would defer all question on the investigation to the FBI. He cautioned the public to wait for details, but he acknowledged the speculation that is understandable in the age of terrorism.

“As a nation, we’ve all had to adjust to a new reality,” Malloy said. “When events such as this occur, we recognize that people almost automatically wonder if someone meant to do us harm? We must exercise caution about jumping to conclusions before discovering or considering all of the facts.”

Mark Pazniokas contributed to this report.