WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — A business jet was hit by severe turbulence over New England, killing a passenger and forcing the aircraft to divert toward Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, authorities said Saturday.
Five people were aboard the Bombardier business jet that was rocked by turbulence Friday afternoon while traveling from Keene, New Hampshire, to Leesburg, Virginia, said Sarah Sulick, a spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The extent of the damage to the aircraft was unclear and the NTSB did not provide details, including whether the victim was wearing a seatbelt. Connecticut State Police confirmed that one person was taken to a hospital, but did not provide further details.
Bombardier in a statement extended its “sincere condolences to all those affected by this accident.”
The company said it could not comment on the possible cause of the incident until the investigation is complete.
The plane is owned by Conexon, a Kansas City, Missouri-based company that brings high-speed Internet to rural communities, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database.
In an emailed statement, the company said a Conexon-owned aircraft was involved in an incident that required an emergency landing.
“The reported death was not a Conexon employee,” the statement said.
NTSB investigators were interviewing the two crew members and surviving passengers as part of an investigation into the deadly turbulence encounter, Sulick said. Voice and data recorders from the plane’s cockpit have been sent to NTSB headquarters for analysis, he said.
Turbulence, which is unstable air in the atmosphere, continues to be a cause of injury for airline passengers despite improvements in airline safety over the years.
Earlier this week, seven people were injured and taken to hospitals after a Lufthansa Airbus A330 experienced turbulence while flying from Texas to Germany. The plane was diverted to Virginia’s Washington Dulles International Airport.
But deaths are extremely rare.
“I can’t remember the last fatality due to turbulence,” said Robert Sumwalt, former NTSB chairman and executive director of the Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Turbulence accounted for more than one third of accidents on largest commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018, according to the NTSB.