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June 1, 2014

7 aboard Atlantic City-bound plane killed in crash

BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — All seven people aboard a private plane that crashed at Hanscom Field and erupted into a fireball were killed, authorities said Sunday.

The Gulfstream IV crashed as it was leaving Hanscom Field about 9:40 p.m. Saturday for Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the air field.

"There were no survivors," Brelis said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people on board and their loved ones."

The names of the victims were not immediately released, and officials didn't say if they were traveling as a group to Atlantic City, a popular casino resort spot on the Atlantic coast.

Officials also did not speculate on what they think caused the crash. They said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate and determine what happened.

Nearby residents recounted seeing a fireball and feeling the blast of the explosion shake their homes.

Jeff Patterson told The Boston Globe he saw a fireball about 60 feet in the air and suspected the worst for those aboard the plane.

"I heard a big boom, and I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house because it shook it," said Patterson's son, 14-year-old Jared Patterson. "I thought someone was like banging on the door trying to get in."

The air field, which serves the public, was closed after the crash. Brelis said responders were still on the scene early Sunday morning.

An aviation expert who spoke to New England Cable News said various explanations for the explosion were possible.

"The engine could implode, if you will," said Steve Cunningham of Nashua Flight Simulator. "A turbine wheel could separate, there could be a fire in the combustion chamber. Or a fuel leak could also create a fire of that nature."

Hanscom Field is about 20 miles northwest of Boston. It was used by the Army Air Corps and military operations dominated until it became both a military and civilian facility in the 1950s. Massport currently manages it as a regional airport serving mostly corporate aviation, private pilots, commuter air services, and some light cargo.

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