Los Angeles, California: A small plane crashed into a home in California on Sunday, killing the pilot and four others, US officials say.
The twin-engine plane came apart and caught fire mid-flight, witnesses told local media, before crashing in Yorba Linda, a suburb of Los Angeles.
A small plane began to break up in flight, tumbled out of the sky and crashed into a Yorba Linda neighborhood on Sunday, engulfing a home in fire and killing the pilot and four people in the house, officials said. Two more people were hospitalized with burns.
Some residents had observed the twin-engine plane starting to come apart and catch fire midair.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Cory Martino said the male pilot was alone in the plane. Killed in the home were two homeowners and two others — two males and two females.
None of those killed were immediately publicly identified.
National Transportation Safety Board aircraft accident investigator Eliott Simpson, speaking at a Sunday night news conference, described a large debris field of at least four blocks resulting from the crash.
Officials said coroner’s investigators had difficulty accessing the home because of extensive damage. They said NTSB officials and representatives from plane maker Cessna hope to tour the crash site and collect all the debris on Monday. Road closures would continue during that process. Parts of Canyon, Crestknoll and Glendale drives around the crash site were closed Sunday evening.
“I heard the sound of an engine getting closer, then I heard a ‘pop, pop,’” said Lori Stockstill, describing the moments before the crash when she and her family heard the plane flying low over their home.
Seconds later Stockstill and others living in the area said they heard the aircraft, or parts of the Cessna 414A, smash into a home on the 19900 block of Crestknoll Drive, a neighborhood of single-family homes just to the southeast of Yorba Linda Country Club.
Officials earlier reported the approximate crash site as being nearby on Canyon Drive.
Some residents said they thought they were hearing a car crash. Others said the impact felt like an earthquake, shaking their homes and jolting them out of pre-Super Bowl activities.
When she and her family ran outside, Stockstill said they saw fire and a huge column of smoke billowing from the crash site.
“You could just see pieces falling everywhere,” she said. “Then like it was in slow motion, I saw a bigger piece falling in front of our home.”
At around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, firefighters could be seen spraying the still-smoldering home with hoses from the ladder of a fire engine. Through the front windows of the home, the destroyed interior could be seen. Nothing was left of the back of the home — a living area, the garage and a room above it were completely gutted. The front half of an SUV parked in the driveway was singed.
Smoke hung on the air and firefighting liquid flowed in nearby gutters.
Pieces of the plane were scattered blocks away from the crash site. Part of the aircraft was lying in the middle of a street, and a tip of a wing was leaning against the roof of a home.
The neighborhood was packed with residents and visitors attending Super Bowl parties. Many came out of their homes, crowding behind police tape and milling near emergency vehicles — 72 firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority, Anaheim and Orange fire departments were on scene along with law enforcement personnel.
Others unaware of the disaster tried to drive in to the area but were stopped by police — vehicles lined up along Fairmont Boulevard as people got out to call friends and family to see what was going on.
Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, and Simpson said the Cessna took off from nearby Fullerton Airport, about 15 miles from the crash site, at 1:39 p.m., minutes before the 1:45 p.m. crash. It banked into a left turn before the crash, Simpson said. The body of the plane was found in a ravine below some homes.
“Based on the debris field and a few videos, the aircraft began to break up in the final stages of its flight,” Simpson said, adding he was unaware of any distress call from the pilot.
Simpson said the maintenance history of the plane, manufactured in 1981, would be reviewed and that the wreckage would be taken to Phoenix for examination.
Besides the fatalities, OCFA Assistant Chief Pokey Sanchez said two people were transported to a local hospital with burns. The third was a firefighter who twisted his ankle while trying to douse the burning home.
Officials late Sunday said those injured remained hospitalized with moderate injuries.
Nearby Glenknoll Elementary School will be closed Monday, according to Principal David Cammarato.
On the school’s website, Cammarato said the campus was “designated as the command center for responding federal and local agencies assisting with the emergency.”
He also said school district employees would check the campus for debris, “including rooftops and play areas.”
People living nearby took to social media immediately after the crash, posting videos of fire and flaming pieces of debris to Twitter and Facebook.
“It was on fire. It was coming apart,” said Pat Rogers, a resident who lives about a mile away from the crash site and was among the residents who saw the aircraft in the air. “It went straight down into the middle of somebody’s roof.”
OCFA PIO @OCFA_PIO: OCFA, Anaheim, Orange and OCSD on scene of a small aircraft down into a single family house. 1 structure involved, 2 people dead, 2 patients transported to local hospital. OCFA in Unified Command with @OCSheriff_ . Press Conference TBD
Rogers said he went to inspect the fire, and that engine parts and other debris littered the street as far as a block away from the burning home.
Jeremy W. @the_bluejacket: Plane crashed near my house in Yorba Linda. I thought a bomb was dropped or something cuz I heard a plane engine moving in close and then my house shook on impact. This pic is near my elementary school.
Roshni Jogin said she was watching pre-game Super Bowl coverage with her family when they heard the explosion from the crash.
“The whole house shook,” she said. They went outside to see “thick, black petrol smoke” from the crash site.
Tony Tomminelli was barbecuing in his backyard, preparing tri-tip and chicken to feed 30 people for his family’s annual Super Bowl party.
His home on Hillside Drive overlooks the homes on Crestknoll. He had a full view of the carnage below.
As the house at the crash site exploded into flames, Tomminelli slid down an embankment to get to the lower street.
He and several other neighbors rushed to the front of the home to see if they could get anyone out. Tomminelli said he saw two people flee from the home. One was a woman, who was crying in street and asking where her father was.
Tomminelli and the other neighbors approached a window and pried it from the wall. He said smoke billowed out, and that’s when they heard someone calling from inside.
“I heard a faint, ‘help me,’” he said. He couldn’t determine if the voice was a man or a woman.
Smoke and flames blocked the group’s progress.
“I was terrified. It was horrible,” Tomminelli said.
His wife, April, was standing in their living room about an hour and a half after the crash while their children watched a movie. She said the family was still shaken up.
“It was so loud. They were really scared,” she said, pointing to the kids.
The family had fled from the home as the fire and smoke were growing. But when they got into their front yard, she said they saw debris falling, and went back inside.
She pointed to the two TV screens, one in a living area near their kitchen, and the other in a front dining room, turned off. Just one other family made it into the neighborhood for their Super Bowl party before sheriff’s deputies shut the area down to traffic.
Authorities had initially reported that two houses were burning at approximately 2 p.m., but officials later said only one building caught fire.
The crash will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.