By ROD HIRSCH
HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – A lightweight experimental sports plane crashed in Sacred Heart Cemetery along the property line adjacent to Central New Jersey Airport around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The pilot was able to unstrap his seat harness and slithered out of the plane. He was uninjured, according to bystanders. There were no passengers in the plane.
The plane clipped the chain link fence with its fixed landiing gear and nose dived into the ground, flipping the plane over. A huge gouge was left in the ground where the propellor hit, forcing the plane to tip over, according to bystanders.
The crash occurred in a remote section of the cemetery towards the rear of the property, hundreds of yards distant from any grave sites.
Police and emergency personnel were on the scene, with investigators from the Federal Aviation Authority expected to arrive around 7:30 p.m.
A HazMat unit was called in to secure a small fuel leak from the plane.
Airport owner Joe Horner said the fuel tanks in the wing of the plane would be pumped out first; the wing would then be disassembled so that the fuselage of the plane could be placed on a flatbed truck to be removed from the crash site and moved to a secure location for investigators to get a closer look.
Horner said the plane was based at Vansant Airport in Erwinna, Pa., 29 miles directly west of the airport in Hillsborough. Horner said it was the type of plane that could be built by a hobbyist inside of an airplane hangar.
The plane was largely intact following the crash. Pieces of the wing tip were scattered in front of the engine, which was crumpled from the impact.
The airport is located at 1034 Millstone River Road.
This was the second crash at the small airport in less than a year.
In September 2019, a single-engine Cessna 172 plane crashed into the treetops along the south side of the Manville Causeway around noon on its approach to the runway.
The pilot, identified as a 33-year-old Somerset County resident, told authorities the plane’s engine had stalled, forcing him to land in the wooded area short of the runway an estimated 70-75 feet in the air,
There were no other passengers.
He was uninjured and managed to make a call on his cell phone to report the incident; he remained trapped in the trees for nearly four hours until rescue personnel using a bucket lift truck from a landscaping company were able to remove him from the plane.
Aerial photos and video from news helicopters showed the plane intact, sitting on top of the tree canopy supported by the tree limbs.