Cliffside Park, NJ Midair Collision, Nov 1985


Cliffside Park, N.J. (UPI) - Rescuers searched the smoldering rubble of an apartment building today for more victims of a midair collision between two small planes that killed at least five people and rained fiery debris on two suburban towns.
The corporate Falcon 50 jet and the private Piper Cherokee propeller plane collided at 5:25 p.m. EST Sunday, authorities said.
The jet crashed into an apartment complex in Cliffside Park, burning five brick buildings -one completely - and forcing 90 families to flee. The plane crashed into a house in nearby Fairview. A small fire broke out, but all the occupants escaped unharmed.
"It is such a crowded area. It's a miracle more were not killed," said State Police Capt. Joseph Craparotta. The two towns are in a densely populated area of northern New Jersey just across the Hudson River from New York City.
Those confirmed dead were:
GREGORY MILLER, of Danbury, Conn.
ALLEN STEITT, of Highlands, N.J. the pilot and co-pilot of the jet, owned by Nabisco, Inc., and another person aboard the Cherokee;
and a fifth person whose body was found in the Cherokee wreck, officials said.
Craparotta said the Cherokee apparently was aware of the jet and tried to dodge it, but their wings touched, causing the crash.
It was not known whether the fifth body recovered was a passenger on the Cherokee or a pedestrian.
"It's possible the third party might have been walking on the street. Or he might have been on the plane," said Bergen County Police Chief Peter Neillands.
Workers with heavy equipment early today began clearing the remains of the three-family home in Cliffside Park hit directly by the jet. The apartment was demolished by the crash and ensuing fire, Craparotta said.
Authorities accounted for all but one of the occupants of that building and for all those living in the four neighboring buildings set ablaze. Officials feared the one missing occupant was killed, Craparotta said.
The missing person was identified as ABIALLA TAHA, 34, who lived in the house directly hit by the jet. His family told police they believed he was inside his apartment when the jet crashed, said Cliffside Park Capt. Russell Nelson.
One witness to the crash, the Rev. John Biermann, said he was inside Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church in Fairview, when he heard a whistling sound over the church and then two explosions.
"It looked like the end of the world," Biermann said. "There were fires all over the place, electrical wires were down and the lights across the street went
out," he said.
National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials examined both crash sites. NTSB Chairman Jim Burnett also planned to examine the sites today, said board spokesman Ira Furman.
The Falcon 50 was bound for Teterboro Airport from Morristown, officials said. The Piper Cherokee left Essex County Airport in Caldwell, N.J.
Two women were injured as the jet crashed in Cliffside. ANN SEVENJKA, 49, was taken to Montefiore Hospital n New York with severe hand injuries. JOSEPHINE ESPOSITO, 39, was admitted to Palisades General Hospital with a fractured hip.

Tyrone Daily Herald Pennsylvania 1985-11-11