Image: Wreckage of plane near Teterboro Airport
Stuart Ramson  /  AP
An investigator surveys the wreckage of a twin-engine plane near New Jersey's Teterboro Airport on Friday morning.
updated 8/21/2009 5:27:42 PM ET 2009-08-21T21:27:42

Two men walked away from a fiery small-plane crash Friday morning and were found by emergency responders at a bus stop minutes later — alert and conscious but badly burned. The mishap occurred after the pilot of the twin-engine Beechcraft Baron aborted a landing at Teterboro Airport and crashed into a tree and sign just after 3 a.m.

Teterboro is the same airport where a 2005 jet crash injured 20 people and where, earlier this month, a controller and supervisor were suspended for their conduct during a deadly midair collision over the Hudson River.

In Friday's crash, the airplane was about halfway down a runway when the pilot, George Maddox, aborted the landing, then tried to climb and come around for another try, said Robert J. Gretz, a senior investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. The pilot never radioed a distress call and it's not clear why he aborted the landing, Gretz said.

The plane cleared a set of power lines and traffic lights along a highway that borders the airport before hitting a tree on the other side of the roadway, breaking in half and hitting a large sign, Gretz said. The cockpit and engines wound up in a grassy field near a warehouse. The plane was sitting upright when it caught fire, and the two men inside managed to crawl out.

'We're here. We're here'
A bartender waiting at a traffic light heard the crash and saw a flash of light over his shoulder, Little Ferry Police Lieutenant Frank Novak said. The man ran to help and came upon the burning plane and two men.

"He heard the two guys saying, 'We're here, We're here,'" Novak said of the bartender. "He said he told them, 'I know you are, but I'm looking for the guys on the plane.' They said, 'We are the guys from the plane.'"

Little Ferry police officer Adam Warne, among the first to respond, was taken aback to find the two men alive, let alone talking.

"They were sitting at the curb at the bus stop. Both of them were alert and conscious and answering questions," Warne said. Warne said one man was severely burned and "in a daze."

The pilot, Maddox, 54, of Sinking Springs, Pa., and co-pilot Sanil Gopinath, 42, of Laurel, Md., were in serious condition Friday afternoon at St. Barnabas Medical Center. Little Ferry Police Chief Ralph Verdi said Maddox had burns over 20 percent to 30 percent of his body and a broken wrist.

The plane was carrying blood and urine specimens for Quest Diagnostics Inc. It had left Reading, Pa., at about 10:45 p.m. Thursday and made stops in Hartford, Conn.; Norwood, Mass.; and Pottstown, Pa., before heading to Teterboro.

Air tragedy over Hudson
The midair collision over the Hudson River, which killed nine people earlier this month, involved a sightseeing helicopter and a plane from Teterboro.

In the aftermath, the Federal Aviation Administration placed a Teterboro controller, who was on a personal phone call in the moments before the crash, and his supervisor, who was out of the building, on administrative leave pending an investigation. The agency said the controller's actions were inappropriate and unacceptable, but didn't appear to have contributed to the accident.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office last year found that Teterboro had 23 runway incursions — incidents in which aircraft strayed into areas designated for takeoffs and landings — from fiscal 2001 through 2007, two fewer than nearby Newark Liberty International Airport, which handles about three times as many flights annually. Three of the Teterboro incursions were classified as serious, meaning there was a risk of planes colliding, more than occurred at major airports in Philadelphia, Boston and Miami over the same period.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: 2 walk away from N.J. plane crash

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