Investigators say Tuesday’s plane crash that left a student pilot dead and a flight instructor injured after the aircraft went down in the center of a Connecticut city was likely intentional, PEOPLE confirms.
“The initial investigation into that accident leads us to believe that it was an intentional act,” a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman tells PEOPLE. “That’s why we transferred lead of the investigation to the FBI.”
Orland Hills, Illinois, Mayor Kyle Hastings identified the student as 28-year-old Feras M. Freitekh in a recent press conference, noting that the Jordan native was attending flight school in Hartford on a student visa. (Hastings noted that Freitekh, despite using an Orland Hills address on his flight school application, never lived in the town.)
The flight instructor, identified as Arian Prevalla, told investigators that he got into a physical altercation with Freitekh in the cockpit of the plane, CNN reports, citing law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation. The source reportedly said Freitekh seemed upset with his family, saying he was being forced to become a pilot.
Officials said the pair were trying to land the Piper PA-34 Seneca at Hartford-Brainard Airport in Hartford at around 4 p.m. Tuesday when the aircraft hit a utility pole, crashed into Main Street near Pratt & Whitney headquarters and burst into flames, the Associated Press reports.
Authorities said they believe the student pilot intentionally crashed the plane, CNN reports. And Orland Hills Police Chief Thomas Scully said the incident is now being investigated as a suicide, according to CNN. Orland Hills police are not conducting the investigation.
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East Hartford police chief Scott Sansom said at a Tuesday press conference that police sought the help of the FBI because the plane crash occurred so close to jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney — which he called “critical infrastructure.”