Two killed as plane smashes into flats

A light aircraft plunged into a three-storey block of flats near Hollywood, killing at least two people, including the pilot.

A light aircraft plunged into a three-storey block of flats near Hollywood, killing at least two people, including the pilot.

The body of one of the occupants of the complex was found under burning debris, Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda said. The body believed to be that of the pilot was found in the plane’s wreckage.

Authorities say seven people were injured on the ground. They believe yesterday’s crash was an accident.

The crash frightened Los Angeles residents and tourists who watched the plane sputter over the city before nosediving into the building. The plane plunged through the two floors to the ground-floor garage.

“All of a sudden, I heard a real loud swirling noise ... then a real loud bang and the whole apartment shook,” said Will Binder, who lives in an adjacent block of flats.

“We heard the plane going around in circles and it started losing power ... It hit. We saw black smoke,” said Carlos Mancilla, 43, who was shopping with friends in Melrose Avenue when the plane crashed.

Three of the seven injured were taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre. They included a man who had more than 25% burns, Fire Chief William Bamattre said.

The building, which had 14 units, burned fiercely at first, but firefighters had the blaze under control in about 30 minutes. By then about half the building was gutted.

The crash occurred in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district, a heavily Jewish area with quiet, older neighbourhoods and trendy shopping areas near West Hollywood.

The plane was believed to be a four-seat aircraft that took off from Santa Monica Airport about 10 miles away, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Donn Walker.

A single-engine Bonanza BE-35 left Santa Monica at 3.45pm local time. Seven minutes later, the Santa Monica tower gave its pilot a frequency change to contact a radar control facility for flight guidance. Walker said they never made contact with the facility.

The Bonanza pilot did not file a flight plan and was operating on visual flight rules, he said. He did not have any other information about that plane, including how many people were aboard.

Adam Krolfifer was visiting the CBS Studios when he heard a plane overhead.

“I heard a plane, like he was doing acrobatic moves. About four minutes later, we saw a huge plume of black smoke,” said Krolfifer, who was in Los Angeles on holiday.

“It sounded like it was making manoeuvres, the engine getting stressed out,” he said.

Mancilla and his friends ran to the building after the crash and saw a man on the second floor getting ready to jump, he said.

“We were telling him not to jump, but he said, ‘I’m jumping’,” Mancilla said.

As he jumped or fell, “there was a second explosion and we were covered with smoke”. The jumper was apparently not seriously injured.

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