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Plane crashes onto busy New Jersey highway

December 20, 2011 |  9:22 am

A small plane crashed onto a busy highway Tuesday in northern New Jersey west of New York City, killing at least three people and littering the road with debris.

State police said three people had died but the death toll could go as high as five, according to the Associated Press and local media.

A woman who witnessed the crash, Shona Sternberg, told the Star-Ledger newspaper that she saw an explosion when the aircraft hit Interstate 287 in Harding, N.J., about 45 miles outside Manhattan.

 "There was a lot of fire and big black smoke," she said. "I could smell burning, burnt rubber. You see something happening, you know it's going to crash and you can't do anything."

Sternberg told the newspaper it appeared the small plane's right wing broke off before the crash.

The Associated Press quoted witnesses as saying that the plane, reportedly headed for Atlanta, spiraled out of control before crashing.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the plane was a Socata TBM-700, a single-engine plane that can carry up to six people. It left Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and disappeared from radar before crashing onto the highway.

-- Tina Susman

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