Airport firefighters honored for saving lives after B-17 crash


WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (WTNH)– It’s been more than a month since a vintage B-17 crashed at Bradley Airport, killing seven. On Wednesday, the airport first responders spoke out for the first time while being honored for actions that saved lives.

“It will always be a what if,” said Michael Rufus, airport firefighter.

They arrived on scene of a fiery vintage B-17 crash at Bradley Airport as fast as they could and gave their best, but the horror of October 2nd will live on in their minds.

Related: NTSB gives update on Bradley Airport plane crash investigation

“What if we could have been there a little faster,” said Rufus.

“We got on scene within 2 minutes of the plane crash and we didn’t see anything but debris. I had a body in front of me and two that were being rescued by the Air National Guard,” said Pedro DeLeon, airport firefighter.

Pedro DeLeon and Michael Rufus are members of the Airport Fire Department, which was honored Wednesday. First responders shook hands with Governor Ned Lamont and were awarded a commemorative coin.

Related: Simsbury supports 2 of their firefighters injured in Bradley Airport plane crash

“I wanted to come in, look them in the eye and thank them for everything they do for the state of Connecticut and for saving lives that day,” said Lamont.

Three crew members and 10 passengers were on board the plane operated by Massachusetts-based Collings Foundation. The pilot indicated engine trouble, and the plane couldn’t get much altitude, circled around and crashed minutes after takeoff, killing 7 people.

“I am convinced that the actions they took that day led to a number of lives being saved,” said Kevin Dillon, Executive Director CT Airport Authority.

Operations and maintenance workers were also recognized.

Related: Families of victims identified in deadly B-17 crash at Bradley Airport speak

“Other than the adrenaline flowing a little higher than it normally does, this is really muscle memory recalling what you were taught the very first time you became an airport firefighter,” said John Duffy, Airport Fire Chief.

Airport firefighters weren’t the only ones who responded that day. Firefighters from across the area, mutual aid, responded as well and the airport says they plan to thank them as well.

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