Three members of a Bethesda family died when their small plane crashed into a Newark, N.J., neighborhood yesterday, hurling flaming debris across a city block. Twenty-five people on the ground were injured.
Itzhak Jacoby, 56, his wife Gail, 50, and their 13-year-old daughter, Atira, were killed, according to Newark police. The Jacobys were returning home by private plane from New York, where they had spent Thanksgiving with an older daughter, Orit.
Itzhak Jacoby, a professor at the Bethesda-based Uniformed Services University of Health Services, which trains military doctors, was described by friends as an experienced pilot who had flown for the Israeli air force.
"The university community is deeply saddened by his loss," said university affairs director Peter B. Esker.
Five minutes after Jacoby's single-engine Beech Bonanza 35 took off from a suburban New Jersey airport bound for Washington, Jacoby told air traffic controllers that one of his instruments was malfunctioning. Controllers lost contact a few seconds later. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, said spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi.
Two employees at Linden Airport had advised the pilot against taking off in rain and fog, Linden Mayor John Gregorio said.
"Itzhak was a great teacher, both of doctors and pilots," said Rene Bonnel, who lives next door to the Jacobys on Beech Avenue. "I can't believe it. He's the last person you would expect to have a crash."
Witnesses in Newark said the plane spun out of control, hit a tree and a factory, setting it on fire.
The plane sent fiery debris raining down on cars and sheared the roof off one, critically burning a man. It broke apart as it continued down the block then smashed into the side of a closed Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
Gail Jacoby, a graduate of Cornell who was active in local choirs, served as chief of planning at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda. The Jacobys' daughter, Atira, was an accomplished violinist and had recently qualified for a well-known youth orchestra in Montgomery County.
Itzhak Jacoby gained modest renown in medical circles last year as co-author of a groundbreaking Journal of the American Medical Association article documenting the surplus of doctors being produced by U.S. medical schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 11/27/99