Rob Riddell, 59, of East Granby, was a WWII buff. His wife, Debra Riddell, says the couple had already visited Pearl Harbor and were planning a trip to Normandy to celebrate their 60th birthdays.
But, Rob Riddell, was not supposed to be a board Wednesdays ill-fated flight.
He was originally scheduled to be on the Thursday flight, but the company who handled the flights asked him if he would consider moving because they still had seats to fill Wednesday.
He said of course, according to his wife
Just before 8:30 Wednesday morning, Rob Riddell took a picture of the B-17 and posted it to his Facebook page. The picture was posted just over an hour before the flight took off. But, should it have taken off?
“They were working on the engines,” Debra Riddell said of the B-17 crew. “They were having some type of issue with the engine. They didn’t seem to want to start.”
She was told there was moisture that needed to be taken care of.
“At one point, the pilot even came out and at that point my husband sent me a text message that said this does not bode well,” Debra Riddell said.
Debra, who was standing on the tarmac a couple of hundred feet from the plane, said she wasn’t sure what he meant by that.
“I wasn’t sure whether to take it in the context that I might not get my flight in or in the contacts that he was concerned about the plant,” she said.
Just after 9:30, the plane pulled away from where 10 passengers and three crew members had boarded.
In fact, Rob Riddell posted a picture to Facebook just before 9:45 of the inside of the plane as it was taxiing toward the runway
“I didn’t really get a good glimpse of the plane taking off,” said Debra Riddell.
Then, a few minutes into the flight, her heart skipped a beat.
“I got a text message from Rob that said they’re telling us to get back to our seats and strap in, that we are going back,” she said.
So, she responded by asking why.
“He wrote one word: turbulence,” she said.
She said she caught a glimpse of the plane turning toward final approach. Then, shortly after losing sight of it, she heard a loud sound.
“Immediately after that, there was this huge fireball and black smoke just billowing and I knew that plane went down,” Debra Riddell said.
She said she went to Hartford Hospital, where, after several hours, she and other anxious families were told all of the victims that have survived the crash have been accounted for.
“We were meant to be together, but apparently not forever,” she said, while sobbing.
Rob and Debra Riddell would have celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary Oct. 18.