WOODBRIDGE — A pilot is dead after his small twin-engine plane fell into a residential neighborhood late Tuesday morning, igniting a fire that destroyed three homes in the township's Colonia section.

The pilot was identified as Michael Schloss, who was en route from Leesburgh, Virginia, to Linden Airport when his Cessna 414 crashed about 11 a.m., federal and local officials said. The New York Post identified Schloss as a 74-year-old cardiologist from Manhattan.

The plane hit 84 Berkeley Ave. and damaged houses on either side, township police said. The raging fire at 84 Berkeley prevented rescuers from reaching the pilot.

Neighbors reporting hearing a loud explosion and feeling the ground shake.

Why the plane crashed will be the subject of an investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board, which could take at least two to three days to sift through the charred rubble of the house to recover the plane piece by piece — much of which is in the basement of the two-story home.

An NTSB investigator on Tuesday evening said the pilot had been cleared to land at Linden and that the airport did not receive any distress signal.

Weather conditions were cloudy and misty and visibility was 10 miles, NTSB air safety investigator Adam Gerhardt said.

The timing of the crash — just before noon — helped ensure that nobody else was injured. Nobody was home at the house that the plane crashed into on the corner of Princeton and Berkley avenues. A woman in a neighboring house was able to escape.

Electricity and gas service was temporarily cut off to the neighborhood after the crash. Claremont Avenue Elementary School, less than four blocks away, let out early at 1:10 p.m.

A security camera recording shows the plane spiraling from the sky. Gerhardt asked that any witnesses or people who have recordings of the crash visit the NTSB website to provide information. The NTSB will have a preliminary investigation report within 10 days, he said.

Township officials, meanwhile, are helping to collect donations to help the families who lost their homes and belongings.

Township employees will be at the Evergreen Senior Center at 400 Inman Ave. from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to accept the donations.

Checks can be made payable to Woodbridge Community Charity Fund. The township also is accepting gift cards from established wholesale/retail outlets.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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