Family frustrated over lack of report on fatal plane crash
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Since a 2016 plane crash in Connecticut that killed Feras Freitekh set off an FBI investigation, friends and family who insist he was not suicidal have been hoping the review would clear his name.
Three years later, they are upset the FBI has not completed its probe of the fiery training flight wreck that killed the 28-year-old student pilot from the country of Jordan and has not debunked allegations he intentionally crashed the plane.
“I know my son,” Majid Freitekh told The Associated Press during a brief phone interview, disputing claims his son wanted to kill himself. He declined further comment.
It’s not clear why the FBI has not finished the investigation. FBI spokesman Charles Grady in New Haven declined to comment Friday.
Feras Freitekh, who was studying to be a pilot at the American Flight Academy in Hartford, died when a Piper PA-34 Seneca crashed on a busy street in East Hartford on Oct. 11, 2016. His instructor, Arian Prevalla, was badly burned but survived. Officials said it was luck no one on the ground was killed.
The crash initially caused concerns about terrorism because it happened near military jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters, but that was ruled out.
Prevalla told investigators Feras Freitekh was a disgruntled student who was suicidal and crashed the plane on purpose as they argued. Prevalla said he could not regain control of the plane from the trainee before the crash.
Feras Freitekh’s family and friends dispute Prevalla’s comments, saying he showed no signs of depression and was happy to be fulfilling his passion for aviation.
Majid Freitekh filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Prevalla and the now-defunct American Flight Academy, alleging there was something wrong with the plane or Prevalla failed to take control in time to prevent the crash. The plane had two sets of controls for the student and instructor.
Prevalla denies the allegations and has asked a judge to rule the case in his favor. A hearing on the request was scheduled Friday in Hartford Superior Court, but the judge isn’t expected to decide for a few weeks.
Prevalla did not return a message seeking comment and his lawyer declined to comment.
Majid Freitekh’s attorney, Michael Peck, said the family is frustrated the FBI has not issued a report, which Peck had hoped to use as evidence in the lawsuit.
“It’s amazing that it goes on for three years,” Peck said. “He would like to have his son’s name cleared, and most importantly the loss of his son is a deep loss.”
The FBI took control of the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board, which usually reviews plane crashes, because of the claims the crash was intentional. The NTSB sent investigators to the scene but did not come to any early conclusions about the probable cause of the wreck.
Prevalla, who owned American Flight Academy, and the school also are being sued in connection with another fatal plane crash that happened four months after the one in East Hartford.
In February 2017, an academy plane crashed in East Haven, killing student Pablo Campos-Isona. The instructor, Rafayel Hany Wassef, survived. The NTSB concluded there was a mechanical problem that likely caused the engine to stall and the instructor made mistakes during an emergency return to the airport.
Campos-Isona’s sister alleges in a lawsuit that the instructor failed to prevent the crash and the flight school failed to properly maintain the plane. Prevalla and the academy deny the allegations.