Five people were killed when a twin-engine aircraft crashed Sunday in a Santa Ana Staples parking lot, near the South Coast Plaza shopping center in Costa Mesa.
No one was hurt on the ground as the twin-engine Cessna 414 aircraft clipped an unoccupied car, but “fortunately, that person was inside the store shopping at the time of impact,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said at a 2:15 p.m. news conference.
The plane went down at about 12:30 p.m. into the parking lot in the 3800 block of South Bristol Street shared by a Staples, a CVS pharmacy, a Michaels’ decorations store, and a Wells Fargo Bank branch.
“It looked like it came down abruptly,” Bommarito said at a 5 p.m. news conference. “There is a small debris field.”
The nearby intersection of Sunflower Avenue at Bristol Street was closed in all four directions as National Transportation Safety Board and FAA investigators scrambled to the crash just northeast of South Coast Plaza on the Santa Ana of its boundary with Costa Mesa.
That intersection remains closed this evening.
The crash happened about a mile northwest of the north end of the runway at John Wayne Orange County Airport.
The 1973 Cessna was registered to Category III Aviation Corp. in San Francisco according to FAA records, and had been flown from the East Bay suburb of Concord, according to FAA data tracked on the internet.
Cessna 414 planes began operations in 1968. They have a range of 1,528 miles and a top speed of 270 miles per hour, according to Internet research.
The death toll originally was believed to be three, but was upped to five as firefighters examined the crash.
The one parked car in the crowded parking that was hit by the aircraft was destroyed, and the plane leaked jet fuel, which did not catch fire, Bommarito said.
Fire crews remained on the scene to clean up the spilled fuel.
“I don’t know anything about what this pilot did, or what he was thinking, but it could have been much more tragic,” Bommarito said. “This was a Sunday afternoon and we have people shopping, so the fact that we have no injuries on the ground is a miracle in itself.”
The FAA arrived on the scene about 4 p.m. and the National Transportation Safety Board representatives were expected this evening, Bommarito said.
As of 5 p.m., firefighters were still trying to free some of the bodies from the wreckage, Bommarito said.
The identities of the passengers killed in the crash were being withheld pending notification of kin.