A small twin-engine plane that was given order by the air traffic controller to gain altitude crashed into two houses and a UPS truck in a Southern California neighborhood on Monday, killing at least two and injuring several others, officials said. Chilling video shows the houses and the UPS truck erupt in flames as people rushed for shelter.
The crash happened shortly after noon in the city of Santee, about 20 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Fire Chief John Garlow said. It wasn't immediately known whether the other victims were on the ground or on board the twin-engine Cessna 340A.
According to authorities, the twin-engine Cessna 340, gathered altitude after it was given permission by the air traffic controller. However, shortly after that it lost control and struck multiple homes and vehicles, including a UPS truck that was "heavily damaged," Garlow said.
So far, two people have been reported dead. "We do have multiple confirmed fatalities, we do not know exactly how many," said Justin Matsushita, deputy fire chief for the city of Santee, in a briefing for reporters. "We do know there are at least two confirmed."
According to a statement from UPS, an employee was killed.
Three homes had "major damage" and two were completely burned. Shocking videos on social media show the extent of the damage and the huge fire following the crash.
"We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," UPS said. "We also send our condolences for the other individuals who are involved in this incident, and their families and friends."
Two people were rushed to the hospital with burn injuries, Deputy Fire Chief Justin Matsushita said. There are possibilities of more victims, he said, adding: "it's a pretty brutal scene."
What Went Wrong
The plane was being flown from Yuma, Arizona and was on course for Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport, six miles north of downtown San Diego, when it suddenly went off course and soon started losing height. Recordings from air traffic control can be heard wherein the controller desperately pleads the pilot to gain altitude in the final moments before the crash.
"Low altitude alert! Climb immediately!" the controller advised. The pilot responded but till then there were no signs of danger or distress, as he agreed to climb. The crashed happened when the aircraft was lining up for the final approach after the pilot seemed to lose control.
It is not yet known what exactly happened but authorities began receiving reports of the crash around 12:30 pm and the two-engine plane is believed to have crashed at 12:15 pm.
It is unclear how many people were aboard the Cessna 340A. "We believe that the injuries are not survivable for anyone that was on board," Matsushita said.
Multiple vehicles were on fire by the time emergency crews reached the scene, videos show. Debris can be seen strewn across a residential block, and the power has been turned off for about 10 homes in the area as investigators evaluate the damage.
TV news footage about an hour after the crash showed the fire extinguished and two houses and the truck still smoldering and gutted by flames.