Student pilot with Orland Hills address killed in 'intentional' plane crash, officials say

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A flight instructor and a student pilot had an altercation inside the cockpit of a small plane before the plane crashed, killing the student, officials said. (WLS)

A flight instructor and a student pilot had an altercation inside the cockpit of a small plane, and the instructor was unable to regain control from the trainee before the plane crashed near the headquarters of a military jet engine manufacturer, killing the student, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation into what happened said Wednesday.

The crash appeared to have been a suicide attempt by the student, and terrorism was ruled out, the official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The Piper PA-34 Seneca crashed with the two men aboard during a training flight Tuesday in East Hartford near the headquarters of Pratt & Whitney while returning to Brainard Airport in Hartford, authorities said. The flight instructor was badly burned but survived.

The instructor described the student pilot as disgruntled about learning to be a pilot, the U.S. official said.

The flight instructor is Arian Prevalla, and the student was Feras Freitekh, said a law enforcement official, who wasn't authorized to disclose the information and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

From the smoldering wreckage of the twin-engine aircraft, questions about the student pilot who died in the crash.

"Information indicates that this plane crash was intentional," said Lt. Josh Litwin, East Hartford Police Department.

Feras Freitekh, 28, was a Jordanian national who obtained a visa to come to the U.S. in 2012 to attend flight school. He was certified to pilot single engine planes in 2015.

Freitekh listed an address in southwest suburban Orland Hills, and public records show he used it as his address for three years, but village officials said Freitekh had never lived there. Officials said he came from Jordan and went straight to flight school in Connecticut.

"To our knowledge, the deceased pilot has never been a resident or been in Orland Hills," said Mayor Kyle Hastings.

Instead, Orland Hills officials said Freitekh's father was a business associate with the man who lived at the address on the visa, and had asked him to use the address because his father said he didn't have a home.

"Supposedly, he took residence at the warehouse where he worked," said Orland Hills Police Chief Thomas Scully.

The flight instructor survived Tuesday's crash and ran into a nearby bank.

"He had sought help in there, certainly running on adrenaline. It's my understanding he has a significant amount of burns," said East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc.

The instructor reportedly told officials that Freitekh was disgruntled about learning to fly, there was an argument in the cockpit and the instructor wasn't able to regain control of the plane. East Hartford police said so far they have not been able to discern a motive.

In Connecticut, the FBI is leading the investigation along with the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane had no data, voice or video recorders and so the surviving instructor's account appears to be their biggest lead.

"Clearly being able to interview someone who was in the aircraft, it goes without saying that's very beneficial to the investigation," said Lt. Litwin.

Normally a small airplane crash wouldn't lead to this much intrigue, but federal investigators are keenly aware that some of the 9/11 hijackers came to the U.S. on visas and learned to fly planes here.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was briefed by the state police commissioner, said he has not yet decided to beef up security anywhere in the state in light of the crash.

"I'm not aware of any specific threats associated with this action," Malloy told reporters Wednesday. "If I was, then we would take those steps. I am not currently aware nor have I been made aware of any specific threats."

Authorities urged people to avoid the crash site as investigators continued their work.

"This is a very complex investigation with a lot of different agencies and a lot of different moving parts," fire Chief John Oates said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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