WEST CALDWELL, NJ - The National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that the fatal plane crash in West Caldwell on Aug. 15 was caused because of an engine failure.

The preliminary report, which was released by the National Transportation Safety Board last week indicated the pilot, 50-year-old John Hannon, told air traffic controllers that he was having problems shortly after taking off from Essex County Airport around 10 a.m. that morning.

He was instructed to turn around and land back at Essex County Airport, but the small Cessna 206 aircraft’s engine failed, bringing the plane down in a wooded area behind Kiddie Academy at 810 Passaic Avenue in West Caldwell.

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Hannon was killed in the crash.

West Caldwell Fire Chief Jim Alvine saw the plane flying low on the East side of Passaic Avenue heading north on the morning of Aug. 15. He followed the plane until it crashed and called in for emergency services.

"The plane immediately exploded into flames," Alvine said in an email. "I immediately called our headquarters and requested the fire department, the first aid squad and mutual aid from surrounding towns as I did not know how many victims were in the plane."

Other witnesses said the aircraft was nearly silent in the moments before it crashed into the woods, which was an early indicator the cause of the crash was likely related to the plane’s engine.

Hannon was headed to Teterboro Airport to pick up an additional passenger. He ran a flight training school out of Monmouth and Lakewood airports and had a passion for flying according to his family and friends. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation of the crash.