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Julio Cortez, AP Photo
Pieces of a plane that crashed on the highway are seen on a flatbed truck Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011, in Morris Township, N.J. The high-performance Socata TBM-700 turboprop spun out of control and crashed, killing all five people aboard and narrowly avoiding dozens of cars and trucks on Highway 287 in New Jersey on Dec. 20. Federal investigators are searching for debris, which were scattered over at least a half-mile, with one section found lodged in a tree a quarter-mile away.

NEWARK, N.J. — The pilot of a small plane that crashed in New Jersey and killed all five people aboard appeared to be in the middle of declaring an emergency when his transmission went dead.

Pilot Jeffrey Buckalew can be heard on an audio recording of his exchange with controllers. Speaking quickly but not sounding panicked, he says, "N-7-3-1 Charlie Alpha declaring an ..." before the transmission ends. He appears to be starting to form the word "emergency."

Buckalew, his wife, their two young children and a business colleague died in the crash on Interstate 287 in Morris Township on Tuesday, shortly after taking off from Teterboro Airport. They were bound for Georgia.

Buckalew confirmed the plane was accumulating ice as he ascended.

A preliminary federal report on the crash is due next week.