All five people aboard a plane that crashed into a shopping mall in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, are believed to have been killed, authorities say.
The twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air crashed about 45 minutes before the Direct Factory Outlet mall in Essendon was to open, police minister Lisa Neville said.
The plane had taken off from Melbourne’s second-biggest airport at Essendon on a chartered flight to King Island, 160 miles to the south, Ms Neville said.
The mall is next to the airport and it is believed there were four tourists on board along with the pilot.
Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane said it appeared no one aboard the plane survived and nobody on the ground was injured.
‘Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt,’ he said.
A pilot reported a ‘catastrophic engine failure’ moments before the plane crashed into a storage area at the rear of the mall, police said.
Police and paramedics rushed to the crash site, where firefighters doused the flames.
A witness who gave his name as Jason told Australian Broadcasting Corporation he was passing the mall in a taxi when the plane crashed.
‘I saw this plane coming in really low and fast. I couldn’t see the impact but when it hit the building there was a massive fireball,’ he said.
‘I could feel the heat through the window of the taxi, and then a wheel – it looked like a plane wheel – bounced on the road and hit the front of the taxi as we were driving along.’
The US embassy in Canberra would not comment on a report that the passengers were American citizens, but said it was working with local authorities.
‘We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who died in today’s tragic crash,’ an embassy statement said.
‘We are unable to confirm any details about the nationality or identity of any of the victims.
The US embassy in Canberra and the consulate in Melbourne are working closely with local authorities to assist in any way possible.’