Wife “sensed” something was wrong before CT crash

Windsor Locks, Connecticut — Tragic new details are emerging about the deadly crash of a World War II-era bomber. Federal investigators said the 75-year-old pilot, Ernest McCauley, had logged more than 7,000 hours at the controls of B-17s and had been flying it for over 20 years.

The pilot was among seven people killed when the B-17 crashed Wednesday, including Robert Riddell. His wife, Debra, shot video of her husband boarding the plane. As the plane taxied, she gave a thumbs up, but she said she had a bad feeling during the flight.

“I just sensed that that plane was going to go down,” Riddell said.

Soon after taking a picture from inside the plane, Robert texted her that the pilot asked them to return to their seats due to turbulence. Less than 10 minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed during an attempted emergency landing. Robert, a WWII buff, died in the fiery crash.

“This is the part that makes it hard knowing he’s never going to get to know Zachary,” Riddell said, referring to her grandson. “He’s only 17 months old. He’s not going to remember his grandfather.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board spent Thursday at the crash site. They now believe the plane landed short, striking objects at the end of the runway before careening into a building.

“We were able to determine the plane made contact with the approach lights at about 1,000 feet from the threshold of runway six and had hit in some way about 30 approach lights,” said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy.

In total, seven died in the crash. Six survived, with the help of Air National Guard Chief Master Sargeant James Traficante. He was wearing his fireproof gloves and got an exit hatch open, allowing passengers to get out. Traficante is recovering from his injuries.

Retired Connecticut police inspector Gary Mazzone, was one of 10 WWII enthusiasts on the flight. His family is left grieving their loss.

“He was a great role model. A great role model to me and my siblings. Hard worker. Well respected, do anything for you, and I’m lucky,” said son Brian Mazzone. “Everyone’s lucky and better for having known him.”

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