WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (CBS) – A Connecticut National Guard airman aboard the B-17 bomber that crashed at Bradley Airport Wednesday helped other passengers escape the fiery accident. Chief Master Sgt. James Traficante is being hailed by authorities for his “heroic efforts,” despite also being hurt.

Seven out of 13 on board the World War II-era plane died. But it could have been even worse if the 54-year-old from Simsbury, Connecticut was not on the flight.

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“As an aircrew member, he has training and experience in handling emergency incidents on aircraft,” the Connecticut National Guard said in a statement. “He brought his military issued flame retardant flight gloves with him during the flight, and using these, was able to open a hatch on the aircraft allowing other passengers to egress the plane after the crash.”

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Sgt. James Traficante (Photo credit: Connecticut National Guard)

Connecticut Department of Emergency Services Commissioner James Rovella said at a press conference Thursday that Traficante had broken limbs and an injury to his collarbone.

“Even in that, he was able to open a hatch inside the airplane,” he said.

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Traficante was released from Hartford Hospital and is continuing to recover at home.