The 49-year-old man killed in a small plane crash in Salisbury Township was a student pilot, according to the flight school that owned the aircraft.
Nouman Saleem, owner of ProFlite Aero Services, said the other person in the plane, who was badly injured in the Wednesday afternoon crash, is a flight instructor with the school.
“The ProFlite Aero Services family is devastated by the tragic accident involving our instructor pilot and student pilot,” Saleem said Thursday in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the family of the student pilot, and we send our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to our flight instructor.”
“The [National Transportation Safety Board] is on the scene and its investigation has begun,” the statement continued. “Federal regulations prohibit us from commenting further while the NTSB investigation is ongoing.”
Saleem, who has owned the school since 2018, said he is gathering information for investigators while still trying to process the tragedy.
“As president of the company, I cannot say anything I don’t know about,” Saleem said earlier Thursday, speaking by telephone. “All I know is that this unfortunate incident happened [Wednesday].”
Saleem said he could not release the name of the victim. Authorities said they plan to do so after confirming his identity through dental records and notifying next of kin. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday.
ProFlite has offices in Palmer Township but typically flies out of Hackettstown Airport in Warren County, New Jersey, according to Saleem. The business used to be at Braden Airpark in Forks Township, but Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, said ProFlite ceased operations there earlier this year. Riccobon did not know the reason.
Saleem said his company sometimes uses Allentown’s Queen City Municipal Airport, which is where the company’s single-engine Piper PA-28 left before crashing a short time later onto the lawn of a home in neighboring Salisbury Township. Riccobon said ProFlite rents a “tie-down” or a space to put down the plane, at Queen City.
Saleem, who said he has been besieged with media interview requests, asked for privacy.
Lehigh County Coroner Daniel A. Buglio said a dental comparison is necessary to confirm the man’s identity because of the severity of the crash.
“Visual identification is not possible, therefore after the autopsy, staff from my office will complete radiographic tooth and jaw identification (dental X-ray),” he said in a Thursday morning news release. “Once positive identification is made and next-of-kin for the decedent is contacted, the name of the decedent will be released.”
The man was listed as “John Doe” in the coroner’s report released Thursday. Authorities have not released the name of the injured person, who was taken to the trauma center at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest.
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The plane crashed around 1:40 p.m. in the yard of 1480 Keystone Road, along the Little Lehigh Creek. One witness said the engine was sputtering and she saw flames coming from the craft.
A spokesperson for the NTSB confirmed two people were on the plane, which erupted in flame on the ground.
Riccobon said Wednesday the plane left Queen City, which the authority owns, sometime after noon. He had no further information Thursday about the crash.
In addition to the coroner’s office, the death is being investigated by township police with assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB.
Staff writer Daniel Patrick Sheehan contributed to this report.
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