LINDENHURST, N.Y. -- A small plane trying to return to a suburban Long Island airport after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit crashed on Sunday, killing one person and critically injuring the two others aboard, officials said.
No injuries were reported on the ground.
The Piper PA 28 crashed shortly before 3 p.m. while returning to attempt an emergency landing at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of New York City, authorities said.
Suffolk County Police said the single-engine plane had taken off from the same airport at 2:18 p.m. and the pilot issued a mayday signal a short time later, indicating there was smoke in the cockpit.
The statement said the plane had turned back toward the airport to make an emergency landing but crashed at 2:58 p.m. near an intersection in North Lindenhurst not far from the Long Island Rail Road track.
One person was pronounced dead at the scene and the two others were taken by medevac helicopter to an area hospital in critical condition, said the statement released by the police department's commissioner, Rodney K. Harrison.
It said their names were being withheld while relatives are being notified.
The plane crashed into an area of trees and brush near the tracks, said Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer. Of the crash area, he said, “It’s like a buffer that runs along the tracks."
Tom Altieri told Newsday he was getting out of his vehicle around 3 p.m. to enter his home in North Lindenhurst when he noticed a small plane unusually “low and slow.” Seconds after seeing the plane pass over him, he heard “a somewhat large explosion” followed by a plume of smoke.
A person posted pictures on social media showing black smoke rising over homes on a suburban street. Police said they closed a local road because of the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and responded to the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to determine the cause of the crash.