Plane crash near Plainville airport kills Burlington pilot

Published on Thursday, 12 July 2018 21:39


PLAINVILLE - A Burlington man was killed Thursday morning in the crash of a twin-engine plane near Robertson Airport.

The pilot, who was flying alone, was identified as 67-year-old Donald Eckberg.

The plane went down in the town’s landfill, which sits just southwest of the airport, behind an apartment complex off Julie Road.

It was just before 10:24 a.m., when police received a 911 call about the crash. The first officer to arrive had to hop a fence and run to the top of a hill, where the wreckage sat, and call out for possible survivors.

“The officer tried performing life-saving techniques on Eckberg, but he had died on impact,” said police Lt. Nicholas Mullins.

Roger Knapp, who lives in an apartment about 100 yards from where the crash happened, said he was working at home behind a glass sliding door when he could hear the plane coming.

“I heard it was too low, that’s for sure,” Knapp said.

Knapp said the plane appeared as though it were heading directly for his house before it banked left and ended up in a wooded area.

“Oh, it was a huge crash,” Knapp said of the sound.

Mullins said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have taken over the investigation. The agencies will determine what caused the crash.

“I know people saw the plane flying low in this area,” Mullins said. “I can’t tell you how, exactly, the dynamic of the crash occurred. That’s under investigation as we speak.”

When asked if he had any idea what caused the crash, Mullins said, “That would just be speculation at this point.”

On its Twitter page, the NTSB identified the aircraft as a Rutan Defiant, a four-seat, home-built aircraft. Mullins said the aircraft had taken off from Robertson Airport, but he was not sure where it was headed.

This is not the first time a plane has crashed near Robertson Airport.

Just last September, an 80-year-old man, flying a single-engine aircraft, crashed into a tree and spun around before the aircraft settled into a parking lot adjacent to the airport. He walked away with minor injuries.

Mullins said there also was a crash several years ago near Northwest Drive.

When asked if authorities had any concern about the number of accidents in the area, Mullins said, “I’d rather not comment on that. Unfortunately, these things do occasionally happen. And we have seen plane crashes in Plainville over the years, due to the fact that we do have an airport in town.”

Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Plainville on Thursday, 12 July 2018 21:39. Updated: Thursday, 12 July 2018 21:42.