A small plane crashed yesterday right after takeoff from New Castle Airport outside Wilmington, instantly killing its only occupant, identified as Daniel S. Hart, 40, of Wilmington. Hart was president and chief operating officer of Serveon Inc., a Wilmington computer-related services company.

Hart took off from Runway 27 about 7:20 a.m. in a Beechcraft Duke twin-engine aircraft, according to a news release from the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which oversees the airport.

The release said witnesses saw the plane climb rapidly after takeoff, bank left at a 90-degree angle, and bank again before barrel-rolling to the ground. It burst into flames upon impact and was destroyed.

The airport was closed about an hour. The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.

- Kathleen Brady Shea