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2 Pilots Among 7 Killed In B-17 Crash In Connecticut

The two pilots of a B-17 bomber that crashed at a Connecticut airport were among seven people killed in the fiery wreck, officials said Thursday.

The pilot was Ernest McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, California, and the co-pilot was Michael Foster, 71, of Jacksonville, Florida, according to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. The flight engineer Mitchell Melton, 34, of Dalhart, Texas, survived with injuries.

The plane crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble on takeoff Wednesday morning from Bradley International Airport. Some of the survivors were critically injured.

Among those killed was Gary Mazzone, 60, of East Windsor, who was a history and military buff, according to his son, Daniel Mazzone. He didn't know of his father's plans to ride the B-17, he said, but knew why he would be interested.

"I think he just wanted to see what it was like to be in the back of a B-17," Daniel Mazzone said. "He loved World War II. He loved people who served this country in any capacity."

Mazzone, a father of three children and two stepdaughters, retired in January as a prosecutor's office inspector and previously was a Vernon police officer for 22 years.

"We're all very sad ... and we're very sad for his family," Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane said. "He was a good investigator. He was a good inspector. And he was a very good and helpful colleague."

The wife of Robert Riddell, an insurance company analyst from East Granby, said in a Facebook post that her husband was among those killed. Robert Riddell had posted a photo from inside the plane just before takeoff.

"Words cannot express how devastated I am. Rob was the best person I've ever known. ... I will miss him beyond words can ever express. He loved his children more than anyone could know and the new grandson was the apple of his eye," Debra Riddell wrote.

Jim Roberts, 48, of Ludlow, Massachusetts, was also among those killed, his brother Joe Roberts told MassLive.com.

Two firefighters from Simsbury were aboard the plane and are recovering, the fire department said.

Also among the injured passengers was a member of the Connecticut Air National Guard, officials said.

Some lives were likely saved by the efforts of people, including someone who raced to help the victims and people on the plane who helped others escape the fire by opening a hatch, state Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella said at a news conference late Wednesday.

"You're going to hear about some heroic efforts from some of the individuals that were in and around that plane," he said.

Bridgeport Hospital officials said that one survivor who arrived in serious condition was upgraded Thursday to fair condition, and that two others there were still in fair condition. All three suffered burns and broken bones.

The names of the 10 passengers and three crew members aboard the plane have not been released officially.

Bradley Airport said it was holding a moment of silence for the victims Thursday morning.

The retired, civilian-registered plane was associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its Wings of Freedom vintage aircraft display to the airport this week, officials said.

The vintage bomber — also known as a Flying Fortress, one of the most celebrated Allied planes of World War II — was used to take history buffs and aircraft enthusiasts on short flights, during which they could get up and walk around the loud and windy interior.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate.

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