All ten people on board a small plane were killed in a fiery crash Sunday morning when the aircraft struggled to gain altitude after taking off from a suburban Dallas airport, veered to one side and plunged into a hangar, local authorities and witnesses said.
Federal officials said two crew members and eight passengers were killed when the twin-engine plane, scheduled to fly to St. Petersburg, Florida, crashed at the Addison Municipal Airport at 9:11 a.m. The identities of those killed were not immediately released.
“We don’t know a lot about the people on board at this point,” National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said.
Officials say the Beechcraft BE-350 King Air hit a hangar that then burst into flames with black smoke billowing from the building as firefighters sprayed it with water. A plane and helicopter in the hangar were damaged, but there were no people in the building.
The crash left a gaping hole in the hangar, which sits not far from a busy commercial strip and densely populated residential neighbourhoods of the northern suburb of Dallas.
Landsberg said the plane had recently changed hands so its tail number was not yet certain. Jennifer Rodi, the NTSB’s lead investigator on the accident, said it had previously been owned by a private charter company in Chicago.
Edward Martelle, a spokesman for the town of Addison, said the plane was taking off at the south end of the airport and had just lifted off the runway when it veered left, dropped its left wing and went into the hangar.
Asked if the behaviour of the plane indicated engine failure, Landsberg said: “We cannot confirm that there was an engine failure at this point.”
“There are any number of possibilities that could occur,” he said.
David Snell, who was getting ready to fly from Addison with a friend Sunday morning, told KDFW TV that the plane didn’t sound right on takeoff.
“It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn’t know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left, you could tell it couldn’t climb. My friend and I looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Oh my God. They’re going to crash,“’ Snell said.
Peter Drake says he saw the plane crash into the hangar.
“He got onto the runway, went down the runway, started taking off. He got to about 200 feet, and I saw him starting to lose power and his altitude, and then I see him just roll over and came straight down right into the building,” Drake said.
Air traffic control tower audio from around the time of the crash does not capture any pilot indicating an emergency or trouble with a plane. But pilots waiting to take off soon thereafter can be heard seeking updates and being told repeatedly to wait.
“Everybody just stand by,” a controller said. “We had an accident on the field, so expect not to go out any time soon.”
Dallas County was helping the city of Addison set up a family assistance centre for people affected by the crash, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. The centre is staffed with chaplains, counsellors and other mental health and support workers, he said.
“It’s a horrible, sad, shocking thing to lose a family member like this,” Jenkins told The Associated Press. “So we’re doing whatever we can to comfort them.”