Multiple people were killed after two small planes collided mid-air at a California airport on Thursday afternoon. The two planes collided while they were trying to land at the airport, officials said. Officials reported that the accident happened just before 3 p.m. local time at Watsonville Municipal Airport in Watsonville, a rural region about 50 miles south of San Jose.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, two Cessnas -- a single-engine Cessna 152 and a twin-engine Cessna 340 -- crashed into each other when the pilots were attempting to land the respective airplanes. As of now, two people have been reported dead but the numbers could increase.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that there were three persons on board the aircraft -- one in the Cessna 152 and two in the Cessna 340 -- but it did not give an update on their conditions. Nobody on the ground was known to have been hurt, the statement form the agency said.
First responders received a report of the crash Thursday afternoon before 3pm PST. One of the planes plummeted into an adjacent field while the other slammed into a hangar, following the head on collision mid-air.
The two planes were attempting to land when they collided, the city of Watsonville said on social media. "We have reports of multiple fatalities," it said.
According to Franky Herrera, who spoke to Santa Cruz Sentinel, he was passing past the airport when the fatal collision happened. The two planes were about 200 feet in the air when they struck each other.
"The smaller plane just spiraled down and crashed," Herrera, an off-duty officer, said.
The plane landed about 100 feet from houses, according to the local outlet. First responders placed a tarp over the aircraft's smashed cockpit.
The larger aircraft, according to Herrera, kept descending but "was struggling." Then, from the opposite side of the airport, he noticed a flash of fire.
Social media users shared photos and videos of a single small plane's wreckage on a grassy field close to the airport. One photo displayed a smoke plume that was visible from a street close to the airport.
A photo from the city of Watsonville showed firefighters on the site and damage to a small facility at the airport.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation and are yet to share further details.
More than 55,000 operations are conducted annually at the city-owned airport, which has four runways and is home to more than 300 aircraft, largely for leisure or agricultural purposes. Additionally, it lacks a control tower to guide departing and arriving pilots.
According to the City of Watsonville website, the airport is responsible for around 40 percent of all general aviation activities in the Monterey Bay region. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office received calls from the Watsonville Police Department but was unable to provide information due to lack of resources.
The accident marks the third plane crash on Thursday to leave casualties in California. According to officials, a San Diego man, 65, suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries after his single-engine plane crashed on a street close to a busy motorway overpass in El Cajon.
No one was wounded when the jet apparently hit an SUV in the city about 20 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.