Marek Pienkos / EPA
The tail of a small aircraft sits behind a burned home following a crash in East Haven, Conn., on Friday, Aug. 9.
Four bodies have been recovered from the charred wreckage of two Connecticut homes after a small plane trying to land on Friday slammed into the houses and burst into flames, a fire official said Saturday.
"We were able to pull four bodies from the plane and one of the homes,'' East Haven Fire Department Assistant Chief Chuck Licata said at a press conference.
The dead on the plane were the pilot, former Microsoft executive Bill Henningsgaard of Medina, Wash., and his teenage son, Maxwell, according to authorities and the website of Eastside Pathways, a nonprofit in Bellevue, Wash., where Henningsgaard served as executive director.
Licata said two children who had been in one of the East Haven, Conn., homes were also among those confirmed dead. Police identified them as Sade Brantley, 13, and Madisyn Mitchell, 1.
The other house that the Rockwell International Turbo Commander 690B twin-engine turbo prop plane crashed into late Friday morning was vacant, National Transportation Safety Board investigators said.
When the plane hit the first home, it impacted "the side of house inverted between 60 and 70 degrees," Patrick Murray, the NTSB investigator in charge, said on Saturday.
"There could be numerous reasons why he came in at that angle," he added.
Relatives of the Henningsgaards told NBC New York said the father and son, who had been flying toward Tweed-New Haven Airport when the plane went down on a few blocks north, were touring colleges. They were visiting eight schools, including Yale in New Haven, the relatives said.
There was no distress call prior to the 11:22 a.m. crash, Robert Gretz of the NTSB said, and there had been no reports of the engine stopping or the aircraft running out of gas. The plane had fueled at nearby Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. There were rain showers at the time of the accident, but Murray cautioned the NTSB had not yet pointed to weather or a mechanical problem as the cause of the crash.
NTSB says it will begin searching the plane's wreckage tomorrow for its ground proximity warning system. The agency added that a preliminary report on the Connecticut plane crash will be available in about 10 days.
"We don't have any preliminary indication that anything was wrong with the plane," he said Saturday.
The mother of the children who died was “devastated,” East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo said. She was taken to the hospital "to make sure she was OK, " he told reporters on Saturday.
Shaken neighbors described the moments before and after the accident, which engulfed the two Charter Oak Avenue homes in flames.
Russell Hickson told NBC Connecticut that he noticed the plane flying eerily low over the neighborhood.
"It went dead quiet" before it went down, Hickson said.
Greg Watras, 27, who lives seven houses away, awoke to the sound of fire engines tearing down the street.
"It was a big fire, the biggest fire I ever seen,” he told NBC News.
Alexis Hernandez, 17, was home alone with her 12-year-old sister — who is friends with the 13-year-old who died — when she heard the crash and ran out to see a house up in flames.
“Living by an airport is so scary," she said. "The planes fly so fast and they must be really low.”
Robert Mallory, an airplane mechanic who lives nearby, told The Hartford Courant he could tell the plane was in trouble by the hum of its motor.
"It just didn't sound right," he said. "It sounded like someone stuck a stick in a lawn mower. It just stopped."
When the plane crashed, Mallory sprinted to his car and raced over to the Charter Oak Avenue homes, reported the newspaper. By the time he got there, the houses were on fire, pieces of the plane were strewn across the lawns, and a woman was outside, screaming for her children.
"They didn't get out," Mallory told The Courant.
By Saturday, all pieces of the aircraft had been removed from the scene so the NTSB could begin examining them.
What's left of the charred houses will be removed early next week, Mayor Maturo said on Saturday, adding extra police officers would be patrolling the neighborhood.
The plane was equipped with a ground proximity warning system, which monitors data such as GPS, air speed, and altitude, the NTSB’s Murray said. That equipment could provide important information about what happened before the crash, he said.
He added he anticipated a preliminary report from the NTSB on the crash within 10 business days.
Bill Henningsgaard was a former vice president of Microsoft who was active in philanthropic causes. Maxwell Henningsgaard was going to be a senior at Lakeside School in Seattle.
In 2009, Bill Henningsgaard and his mother, Edna, survived when their plane went down in the Columbia River near Astoria, Ore.
Henningsgaard leaves behind a wife and two daughters, the nonprofit where he worked said.
A vigil was scheduled in East Haven for Saturday evening for the four victims.
NBC's Tracy Jarrett, Tracy Connor, Becky Bratu, Matthew DeLuca and Daniel Arkin contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:38 PM EDT