PALM COAST, Fla. – Three people were killed Friday afternoon when a small plane crashed into a house while on approach to the Flagler County Airport and caught on fire, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.
The Flagler County Sheriff's Office said the plane struck a house on Utica Path at 2:20 p.m., about a mile east of the airport and just west of Interstate 95.
FHP said the flight originated in Fort Pierce and was headed to Knoxville, Tenn., when the pilot said the plane began severely shaking and declared an emergency about 2:10 p.m. The Federal Aviation Administration reported the mechanical problem had the 1957 Beech Bonanza H35 divert to the Flagler County Airport.
"I witnessed the entire thing happen. It was gut wrenching," said one post on FlaglerLive.com. "One minute you saw the plane ready to land, the next minute 'poof' it was gone and all you saw was a huge cloud of black smoke. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved."
A photo from the scene courtesy of FlaglerLive.com showed the house on fire.
FlaglerLive.com identified the homeowner as Susan Crockett, who escaped serious injury and was helped out of the burning house by neighbors and first responders. The plane hit the kitchen and living room.
Crockett appeared visibly shaken and was wrapped in a blanket as she told family and friends on the phone, "I'm OK, I'm OK," FlaglerLive.com reported.
FHP said the plane was in Daytona Beach's airspace when the pilot contacted an air traffic controller via radio.
"The engines were shaking. They reported that they saw smoke, then some commotion ensued. I don't know what that entails or what that exactly means," FHP Lt. Justin Asbury said. "That was the last transmissions. Apparently the air traffic controller had seen that they had entered a bad weather area, and that was just after the transmissions."
FHP said it appears the plane made a steep decent prior to crashing through the roof of the home. Fire consumed most of the plane and much of the house.
The FAA reported there were only three people on board the single-engine general aviation aircraft that seats four people.
The FHP confirmed three fatalities, but said they were searched other victims. The Flagler County Sheriff's Office initially reported five people were on the plane.
The names and hometowns of those killed was not released Friday night.
Family and neighbors speak about plane crash
Jessica Crockett said it's nothing short of a miracle that her 50-year-old mother, Susan, survived the crash. Her mother was the only one home at the time, and Crockett said she was in her bedroom when the plane carrying three crashed into her home.
"It's nothing but God," said Crockett. "The fact that my mom survived, the fact that she was able to get out."
Crockett said her mother immediately climbed out of her bedroom window and ran across the street to safety.
Paramedics took her to the hospital, but only as a precaution. Crockett said her mother is going to be just fine.
While Susan did survive the crash, investigators said all three people on board had died.
"My heart just goes out to their families," said Crockett. "I can only imagine what it will be like to lose a loved one. I will be praying for their families."
Neighbor Robert Ferrigno said he heard a loud sputtering noise from the engine and then a boom.
"I looked out the front window, up the street, and there's flames coming out the house," said Ferrigno.
Ferrigno said the flames were as high as the surrounding trees, which are about 40 feet tall.
Ferrigno said house insulation was coming down from the sky like snow. He said the homeowner was already in a neighbor's garage across the street.
"Unfortunately things like that happen. Accidents do happen, but never this close to home," Ferrigno said.
Tim Hornsby lives next door to the Crockett's with his wife and 7-week-old baby.
"There's insulation and pieces of it all over my yard," said Hornsby. "I'll be cleaning up tomorrow."
Hornsby said he wasn't home when the plane crashed, but the rest of his family had to be evacuated.
"My wife was pretty upset, yes," said Hornsby. "She was upset after seeing the explosion. I didn't see the accident, but heard the explosion."
The FAA reported the plane was flying under visual flight rules, but weather conditions at the time in Flagler County showed a low cloud cover that would have required instrument flight rules.
"A pilot who flies a lot in Florida knows that the conditions can change dramatically very quickly," said Channel 4's Sam Kouvaris, who is an experienced pilot.
The plane was registered out of the British Virgin Islands. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating and will return to the scene Saturday.
What went into the house is no longer there, except for a portion of the tail wing. Investigators said they also removed the bodies from the wreckage Friday night and will determine how to get what's left of the plane out of the neighborhood.