Federal Agents Seize Records From American Flight Academy At Brainard Airport

Federal agents with a search warrant seized records from American Flight Academy at Brainard Airport Thursday afternoon.

The agents from the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General arrived about noon and were still searching the flight school's office Thursday evening. The agents also searched an apartment building on Essex Street in Hartford where American Flight Academy students live.

Hartford police Deputy Chief Brian Foley confirmed that Hartford police assisted the federal agents in serving the search warrants, but declined to comment further. State police also assisted.

A person familiar with activity at the airport said Thursday night that when the agents arrived they announced they had a warrant and asked to see everyone's ID.

"They came in and said, 'We have a warrant, stay where you are,'" the person said.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the federal agents seized paper and computer records from the flight school offices and a flight school hangar at the airport.

The FBI has been investigating the Oct. 11, 2016, crash of an American Flight Academy aircraft in East Hartford. The flight instructor, Arian Prevalla, was burned in the crash and the student, Feras Freitekh, was killed.

American Flight Academy lost another airplane and student in a Feb. 22 crash near Tweed-New Haven Airport in East Haven.

Kevin Dehghani, a lawyer for American Flight Academy, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

In the East Hartford case, Prevalla told investigators that the student pilot began acting erratically as the aircraft prepared to land at Brainard Airport in Hartford, and that the crash appeared to be intentional.

The National Transportation Safety Board said its initial investigation indicated the crash was "an intentional act." As a result, the FBI took over the investigation and has not released any information since.

A final NTSB report has not been produced.

Prevalla told investigators that he screamed at Freitekh to release the airplane's controls and hit Freitekh's left hand, but Freitekh's grip remained firm and he refused to relinquish control, according to police reports and sources. Prevalla told police Freitekh continued to fight with him over control of the aircraft.

Prevalla also told investigators that Freitekh was from Jordan and was training to become a commercial pilot. Prevalla is the president of the flight academy and an investor in the Hartford Jet Center at Brainard. The plane involved in the East Hartford crash was a Piper PA-34 Seneca.

Immediately after the October crash, police and federal agents searched the Annawan Street apartment in Hartford that Freitekh shared with several other foreign flight students. The FBI also seized Freitekh's electronic devices and planned to search them. Authorities interviewed Freitekh's roommates, and cleared them, sources said.

FBI agents also interviewed several foreign students living at an Essex Street apartment owned by Prevalla and cleared them.

But federal officials have never closed their investigation into the crash. They told the state medical examiner several times that their investigation was continuing. The medical examiner eventually ruled the manner of Freitekh's death would be listed as undetermined and not suicide unless new information emerged.

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