LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – A small plane crashed into the parking lot of a post office in Louisiana shortly after takeoff on Saturday, killing five people and fully engulfing a car on the ground in flames, authorities said.
The two-engine Piper Cheyenne crashed about 1 mile from the Lafayette Regional Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said. The plane was en route to Atlanta, said Lafayette Fire Department spokesman Alton Trahan.
Video and photos showed a trail of scorched and burning grass around the crash site in the city of Lafayette. A blackened car sat in the post office parking lot, which was carpeted with scattered tree limbs.
Four people were brought to the hospital: one from the plane, one on the ground and two post office employees who were brought in for evaluation, Trahan said.
The aircraft was an eight-passenger plane, Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit told KLFY-TV.
The plane went down in a part of the city with a scattering of banks, fast food chains and other businesses.
Marty Brady, 22, said the lights went out at his apartment a couple of hundred yards (183 meters) or so away from the crash site as he was preparing to make coffee.
He said he ran out and saw black smoke and flames from the post office parking lot and downed power lines.
â€œThere were some people screaming and somebody yelled that it was a plane,â€ he said.
Brady said the plane clipped a power line over the gate to his apartment complex.
“If it had been a little lower, it could have been a lot worse,â€ he said.
Kevin Jackson told KLFY-TV he heard a “massive explosion” and saw a “big old ball of flame” when the plane crashed. He and other eyewitnesses told the TV station that the plane hit a car as it fell, and that someone could be heard screaming inside the vehicle.
Lafayette is the fourth-largest city in Louisiana with a population of about 130,000, according to the 2018 census. It is located about 135 miles west of New Orleans.
Molinaro said FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on their way to the site.