Small Plane Crashes in New Bedford Cemetery, Killing Pilot

A witness told NBC10 Boston the plane was flying very low over nearby homes, then dived and crashed with "a loud bang"

A small plane crashed in a cemetery in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Monday, leaving its pilot dead and debris scattered across several graves.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the crash, now under federal investigation, at Rural Cemetery.

The plane's sole occupant died, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

"At this time we do not have reason to believe that there were any injuries or property damage on the ground," New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said.

A witness told NBC10 Boston the plane was flying very low over nearby homes, then dived and crashed with "a loud bang."

"He was making weird motions to try to avoid houses. You could definitely see him trying to aim towards an open area," said Yeison Giron, who was at a nearby auto repair shop.

Cell phone video shows the plane in a nose dive before it crashed. The plane appears to hit a tree before breaking apart on impact.

"When I got up close, the plane looked like an accordion. It was shocking. To me, it was dumbfounding, like, oh my God, I can't believe that, you know?" a witness told NBC10 Boston.

The crash brought out dozens of first responders to Rural Cemetery and the scene was taped off. Only the tail was visible from helicopter footage.

The plane was a Cessna 150, the NTSB said in a tweet earlier, noting that it was investigating the crash. A Cessna 150 is an all-metal two-seated aircraft primarily used for pilot training and personal use.

Federal aviation investigators say the plane took off from New Bedford Regional Airport, about five miles from where it crashed around 3:30 p.m.

People who live in the densely populated neighborhood in the south end of the city say the plane was being maneuvered as if it was in an air show.

"I look up and I see the plane it's circling and there's a lot of smoke," another witness reported.

Carol Vidal says her husband Paul was the pilot who was killed in the crash. She says something must have gone wrong because her husband, a longtime pilot, was always cautious in the air.

Paul Vidal told his wife he was going out, she said.

"This afternoon he said, 'Bye, I'm going flying, it's a nice day,'" recalled Carol Vidal, who has been married to Paul for 48 years while the two traveled the world together.

"He was a good pilot," she said of her husband. "I don't know what happened."

FAA records show Paul Vidal was in good health and has had a private pilot license since Feb. 2010. The only medical information shows he wore contact lenses.

"He was in good health," Carol Vidal said. "We ran a 5K yesterday, both of us. We were the oldest ones in the race, so, he was in good health."

The investigation into what happened is just starting but Carol Vidal says she knows for sure her husband would never do stunts in the air.

"He would never do aerobics, ever, my husband would never do that," she said. "He said it was risky and was stupid to try and do aerobics like that, he wasn't doing it. Something went wrong."

Carol Vidal says her husband also leaves behind two children.

It's not clear if there was any radio traffic from the pilot to the airport reporting any issues.

The NTSB is investigating and will piece the plane back together to figure out why it plummeted to the ground.

New Bedford police and firefighters haven't offered details. Massachusetts State Police are investigating along with local police firefighters, according to a release from the agency.

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