Thursday's Miracle: All Safe In Crash, Fire
Building Hit By Plane Trying Emergency Landing
by JOSEPH M. DONADIEU
No one was killed or seriously injured Thursday afternoon when a light plane crashed into the Applied Data Research
Building on Route 206 in Montgomery Township.
One spectator was heard calling out to a minister standing nearby, "Well, it's good your team was working
The small, single engine plane, piloted by Norman N. Jay, 36, of 509 Parlin. St., Philadelphia, was enroute from
Sanford, Maine to North Philadelphia Airport when it developed a fuel leak in the researve tank, according to Trooper
Barron Lardiere, of the Princeton State Police Barracks.
Mr. Jay told police that his fuel gauge registered empty and he noticed fuel stains on the wing. He spotted the
Princeton Airport from the air, and, according to police, attempted to land without radio contact.
The pilot was making his final approach, into the wind, when he lost power and his engine cut out and he crashed
into the southeast comer of the roof, crashing through to one of the larger rooms in the building.
Ths point of impact was 406 feet west. of the airport runway according to Trooper Lairdiere, and the building at
the time was occupied by 110 people.
When the plane came through the roof at 2:10 pm., it landed in the office of Princeton Planning Inc., and the pilot
was thrown from the plane to the office floor, State Plice said. There were 10 employees of Princeton Planning
in the office at the time of the crash, they added.
According to State Police and witnesses nearby, the plane's fuselage was ripped open and black smoke was pouring
out before the plane burst into flames. There was no explosion, they say, and the fire spread from the fuel leaked
Within seconds of the crash, employees of the three firms occupying the building were leaving the structure and
moving their cars from the parking lot nearby. Many returned to retrieve coats, purses, or important materials.
None of the people in the building at the time were injured, according to police and hospital reports, and the
pilot was reported to have walked into Princeton Hospital where he was treated for a cut above the right eye and
Raymond Whitlock, Rocky Hill Fire Chief, an employee of Nassau Oil, was at nearby Princeton Motors, when a salesman
shouted "Oh, my God, look" and pointed to a plane on the way down.
"I left immediately to get fire apperatus in Rocky Hill," Mr. Whitlock said, "and witliin six minutes
I was back on the scene with five men and fire equipment. We were the first comany to arrive."
Among the other companies responding to the general alarm were the Montgomery units from Blawenberg and Belle Meade,
the Kingston Fire Company, three companies from Princeton, one from the New Jersey Neuro-Psychiartric Institute,
and another from the Forrestal Research Center.
Donald C. Thiel, Blawenberg Fire Chief, told The Packet that the fire was well controlled for the size of it, but
added that this could not have been done without the help of neighboring companies.
The entire second floor of the building was burned off, Chief Thiel said, but the first flow was saved from fire
damage, and with the help of neighboring companies, firemen were able to get tarps over really expensive equipment
on the first floor of the building.
"If they had had fire walls, more could hoe been saved," Chief Thiel said. Normally, there is a fairly
good cross wind here in this part of the Township", he said "and we're lucky there won't much today or
the fire might have spread to other buildings."
"I live very near the airport, and I've often considered this type of accident", Chief Thiel said. "I
can't understand how those buildings can be so close to the airport."
According to fire officials, the first alarm was at 2:10 p.m., and men from Rocky Hill remained on the scene until
10:30, only to be called back again. Salvage operations began shortly after the fire was under control but damage
estimates could run into the millions, according to Richard Jones, President of Applied Data Research.
Investigation of the accident by State and Federal authorities is continuing. Gene Alvator, senior aeronautical
inspector for the Aeronautics Division of the State Transportation Department reported that his department conducts
routine investigations of all crashes to determine the cause and means of preventing future accidents.
John H. Maruska, from the State Transportation Department investigated Thursday and found that the pilot had run
out of fuel.
Peter Brunski, an investigator for the Federal Aviation Agency, said "all we do is gather information and
turn it over to the National Transportation Safety Board in New York City, and they make recommendations and determine
the cause." Mr. Brunski could not say whether radio contact had been made between the pilot and Princeton
Airport, but did indicate that none was necessary, since the airport has no FAA control tower.
It's Finally Happened
Workers In Building Describe Crash Scene
Informal conversations at Applied Data Research often centered on the building's closeness to Princeton Airport,
and how one day maybe a plane would crash into ADR facilities.
"One day" was Thursday.
John Bennett, ADR vice president, said the possibility of a plane crash was "a constant conversation piece"
around Applied Data.
He looked around as the building burned, and said he was more concerned about his employees than he was over equipment
damage. "Our most valuable resource is people," he stated. "Computers can be replaced. "'
None of his employees were injured, but the machines suffered considerable water damage, and most of the firm's
operations are being moved to Washington, D. C.
Donna Hall of Hopewell, who is employed by ADR, was on the first floor when the plane crashed. She said, nervously,
she heard a loud noise, and plaster began to fall.
Miss Hall ran to the office of the President, Richard Jones, and then yelled for everyone to get out.
Once outside, the people screamed, gathered wits, and ran back into the building for computer tapes. Some ran for
personal possessions, coats and pocketbooks.
Mr. Jones, the president, inspected the damage and said the loss could be "in the millions. IBM and digital
equipment were heavily damaged by water."
"At least the liability insurance is paid up," he quipped, as the roof continued to burn.
Flames were visible from the area surrounding the research facility, according to Mr. Jones.
Several ADR employes saw the plaw crash. Mrs. Grace Ramsland of Griggstown was one of them.
"I was looking out the back door saw the plane coming down, and knew it wouldn't make it over the top of the
building," she explained. "I saw th pilot try to pull the plane up over the building, but he just couldn't
do it, she continued, glancing around at the debris.
"Plaster began to fall when the plan hit the building. I ran outside, but then came back in to get my handbag"
Jack O'Donnell of Trenton, a programmer, heard the noise then looked to see the plane's tail on fire. "'The
plane landed on the roof," he said, and nodded his head in the direction of the building, where the frame
of the plane was still visible on top of the building.
To most everyone, the first sign that something was wrong was "a loud drone, followed by a thud," according
to Bernie Katacinski of Trenton, an employee of Lee Sam Associates, Inc., an advertising firm.
He heard windows in Princeton Planning Corp. break (the plane landed on the roof atop its offices), looked out,
and also saw the roof on fire.
Most of the employes were out to lunch, but the women present were screaming," Mr. Katacinski noted.