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Former Microsoft Exec Piloted Plane in Fatal CT Crash -- and It Wasn't His First Accident

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The aircraft's left wing lodged in one house and its right wing in the other.

Officials inspect the debris on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 after a small plane, piloted by Bill Henningsgaard, crashed into two homes Friday in East Haven, Conn. Four people were killed in the incident. Credit: AP

Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Police have confirmed the deaths of a former Microsoft executive and his teenage son when a plane crashed into two Connecticut homes.

A responder surveys the scene of a small plane crash, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in East Haven, Conn. The multi-engine, propeller-driven plane plunged into a working-class suburban neighborhood near Tweed New Haven Airport, on Friday. (Credit: AP)

East Haven police confirmed Saturday that Bill Henningsgaard was piloting the plane on a trip with his son, Maxwell, to tour East Coast colleges when the small propeller-driven plane crashed. The two children killed inside one of the homes were identified as 13-year-old Sade Brantley and 1-year-old Madisyn Mitchell.

A neighbor, David Esposito, was among those who raced to help the children's mother. He said he ran into the upstairs of the house, where the woman believed her children were, but he couldn't find them after frantically searching a crib and closets. He returned downstairs to search some more, but he dragged the woman out when the flames became too strong.

Joann Mitchell, center, mother the two girls who died after the plane hit the house they were in, wipes away tears, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 in East Haven, Conn. The plane accident that killed four people in a Connecticut neighborhood was not the first crash for the pilot, a former Microsoft executive who was taking his teenage son on a tour of East Coast colleges. (Credit: AP)

The Federal Aviation Administration says the 10-seater Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B flew out of Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and crashed as it approached the Tweed New Haven Airport at 11:25 a.m. Friday.

Henningsgaard was flying in rainy weather when the plane struck the homes, engulfing them in flames. The aircraft's left wing lodged in one house and its right wing in the other.

Officials inspect the debris on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 after a small plane, piloted by Bill Henningsgaard, crashed into two homes Friday in East Haven, Conn. Four people were killed in the incident. (Credit: AP)

It was not the first plane crash for Henningsgaard, a highly regarded philanthropist. In 2009 he was flying from Astoria, Ore. to Seattle with his 84-year-old mother to watch his daughter in a high school play when the engine quit. He crash-landed on Washington's Columbia River as he tried to glide back to the airport. He and his mother, a former Astoria mayor, climbed out on a wing and were rescued.

"I forced myself to confront that fact that the situation any pilot fears — a mid-air emergency, was happening right then, with my mother in the plane," he wrote in a blog post days later.

On Saturday, crews removed charred sections of the plane as National Transportation Safety Board investigators worked to determine the cause of the crash.

Officials inspect the debris on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 after a small plane, piloted by Bill Henningsgaard, crashed into two homes Friday in East Haven, Conn. (Credit: AP)

Henningsgaard was a member of Seattle-based Social Venture Partners, a foundation that helps build up communities. The foundation extended its condolences to his wife and two daughters.

"There are hundreds of people that have a story about Bill — when he went the extra mile, when he knew just the right thing to say, how he would never give up. He was truly all-in for this community, heart, mind and soul," the foundation wrote Friday in a post on its website.

Paul Shoemaker of Social Venture Partners told the Seattle Times that Henningsgaard was "an incredibly good, real, honest man, for the community, for his family, for this world."

"The guy has already done so much for the world. And he was going to do so much more," he said.

Tweed's airport manager, Lori Hoffman-Soares, said the pilot had been in communication with air traffic control and hadn't issued any distress calls.

"All we know is that it missed the approach and continued on," she said.

Henningsgaard spent 14 years at Microsoft in various marketing and sales positions, according to his biography on Social Venture Partners website. He was a longtime board member at Youth Eastside Services, a Bellevue, Wash.-based agency that provides counseling and substance-abuse treatment, and led the organization's $10.7 million fundraising campaign for its new headquarters, which opened in 2008.

Here's a report from WHNS-TV:

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