WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — A business jet was buffeted by severe turbulence over New England, causing a rare passenger death and forcing the aircraft to divert to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, officials said Saturday.
Five people were aboard the Bombardier executive jet that was shaken by turbulence late Friday afternoon while traveling from Keene, New Hampshire, to Leesburg, Virginia, said Sarah Sulick, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board.
The extent of the damage to the aircraft was unclear, and the NTSB did not provide details including whether the victim was wearing a seatbelt. Connecticut state police confirmed one person was taken to a hospital but didn’t provide further details.
Bombardier in a statement extended its "sincerest sympathies to all those affected by this accident."
The company said it couldn't comment on the potential cause of the incident until the investigation is complete.
The jet is owned by Conexon, a company based in Kansas City, Missouri, that brings high-speed internet to rural communities, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database.
In an emailed statement, the company said an aircraft owned by Conexon was involved in an incident that required an emergency landing.
"The reported fatality was not a Conexon employee," the statement said.
NTSB investigators were interviewing the two crew members and surviving passengers as part of a probe into the deadly encounter with turbulence, Sulick said. The jet’s cockpit voice and data recorders were sent to NTSB headquarters for analysis, she said.
Turbulence, which is unstable air in the atmosphere, remains a cause for injury for airline passengers despite airline safety improvements over the years.
Earlier this week, seven people were hurt and taken to hospitals after a Lufthansa Airbus A330 experienced turbulence while flying from Texas to Germany. The plane was diverted to Virginia’s Washington Dulles International Airport.
But deaths are extremely rare.
“I can’t remember the last fatality due to turbulence,” said Robert Sumwalt, a former NTSB chair and executive director of the Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Turbulence accounted for more than a third of accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018, according to the NTSB.