These are the aviation enthusiasts who died in the B-17 crash

Remains still being identified

By Jason Hanna and Paul P. Murphy, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Vintage B-17 bomber crashes at airport in Connecticut.

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. - Robert Riddell was a World War II buff, and a ride on a B-17 Flying Fortress was on his bucket list. So when the Nine-O-Nine came to the airport in his town, he wanted to be aboard.

With his wife recording video from the tarmac, Riddell went out on the bomber Wednesday, and was one of seven people who police believe were killed when the plane crashed while trying to make an emergency landing.

Minutes before the crash, Riddell was keeping his Facebook friends updated about the flight.

He posted a picture of the bomber's sparse interior as the aircraft was taxiing.

"Here we go!" he later wrote in the comments section of a different post.

Riddell's wife, Debra Riddell, told CNN she spent the rest of the day trying to find out whether her husband was among the six survivors. Eventually she was told those who lived were accounted for, and Robert was still missing.

Here is what we know about those who died:

 

Robert Riddell

 

Riddell, 59, lived in East Granby, a town adjacent to the airport, and he had been fascinated by World War II much of his life, his wife said.

They went to Hawaii for their honeymoon so he could visit Pearl Harbor, she said, adding they went to Maui for the romantic days.

Next year, they were going to go to Normandy, France, the site of the D-Day landings.

A few years ago they had seen the Nine-O-Nine and other planes owned by the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit that showcases vintage aircraft around the country. But at the time, her husband thought the price was too steep.

On Wednesday morning at the airport, he posted a picture of three vintage planes, parked, with the caption: "In the waiting area...."

More than an hour later, he was aboard the B-17 and posted a picture of the interior.

"Taxiing...(not much of a view from the seats)," the post reads.

Debra Riddell said he husband of almost four years should be remembered as a big teddy bear.

"He was kind. He was smart," she said.

He was also reliable and witty.

"My daughter said nobody is that perfect. And he was," she told CNN.

He was a big guy, she said. He had a very firm, booming voice, and a smile that will always stay with her.

And he could hug.

"When he wrapped his arms around you it felt like you were so protected and loved," she said.

 

Gary Mazzone

 

Gary Mazzone, a retired law enforcement officer, died in the crash, Vernon police Capt. John Kelley told CNN.

Mazzone was a Vernon police captain from 1976 to 1998, and was an inspector with the state Division of Criminal Justice until retiring in January, Kelley said.

"He did a lot of good for the community and for the state at large," including by supporting Special Olympics Connecticut, Kelley said.

Mazzone worked in the state attorney's office in Litchfield after leaving the Vernon police, according to friend and colleague Devon Stilson.

He remembered Mazzone as a consummate professional focused on getting tasks done right, not just getting it done.

"He had the highest degree of integrity that one could ask for," Stilson said. "He didn't do it from the standpoint of, 'How are we going to put this person in jail.' Gary approached it from a standpoint of, 'What really happened here? Let's seek the truth before we take the next.'"

Stilson also remembered him for his office pranks -- including one time when Mazzone called the office and impersonated the state attorney.

"Gary called as (the state attorney) and told this (junior staffer) that he was closely monitoring this important case," Stilson recalled.

The staffer, Stilson said, turned white as a sheet, thinking he was under pressure from the top boss.

 

Other names

 

Five other names were released by state authorities, who have identified the remains of one victim.

• Ernest McCauley (captain), 75, Long Beach, California, presumed dead

• Michael Foster (first officer), 71, Jacksonville, Florida, presumed dead

• David Broderick, 56, West Springfield, Massachusetts, confirmed dead

• James Roberts, 48, Ludlow, Massachusetts, presumed dead

• Robert Rubner, 64, Tolland, Connecticut, presumed dead

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