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Rescuers Of B-17 Plane Crash Survivors Honored In East Granby

Connecticut Air National Guard troops who responded to the crash of a vintage plane at Bradley International Airport earlier this month met the governor and reporters Wednesday in East Granby.

Emergency personnel from the guard’s Engine 54 received commemorative coins in recognition of their service.

“I could not have seen anything different as far as how our response went in order to mitigate this emergency fast,” Chief Master Sgt. Robert Cross said.

The firehouse is about half a mile from the spot at Bradley where a B-17 carrying 10 passengers and three crew members lost control during an emergency landing attempt and crashed into a de-icing facility on Oct. 2. Seven people died and seven were injured.

On that day, Cross said his team raced to perform rescue operations as soon as the World War II-era aircraft went down. He said the crew is trained for this type of incident -- the guardsmen and guardswomen drill three times every third year with area police, fire, and emergency service personnel at Bradley.

“I think that if there’s anything that might’ve been different was the amount of water and foam in the area, which presents additional problems as far as getting into the site,” Cross said. “If you have 2 feet of water that you’re walking through -- depending on where you are because there’s puddling areas -- there’s a lot of water being put down on this incident.”

Gov. Ned Lamont came to the firehouse on base to present the coins.

“These are the folks that [stood] up, put themselves at risk and saved lives that day,” Lamont said, “and I just thought I owed them that debt of gratitude.”

Lamont had no update on the condition on the survivors other than to say that some are severely burned and still in the hospital.

He did speak to reporters about efforts to mitigate toxic chemical exposure resulting from the foam used to fight the fire within the crash debris. The foam contains PFAS, a group of 4,000 synthetic chemicals known to cause health problems.

“DEEP, our environmental group, are working night and day to make sure that any of the PFAS is contained and working with the FAA to find the alternative to PFAS very soon,” Lamont said. “Right now, I believe it’s an FAA requirement, that’s why we can’t change it out immediately, but we’ve got to change it out soon.”

Lamont said that on Nov. 1, a group he’s commissioned will release a report examining whether future fire suppression in Connecticut can include a PFAS alternative. Lamont said the report will also address PFAS and the Bradley crash. 

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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