A small plane with two persons on board crashed into a Florida shopping mall and burst into flames last night, injuring at least five people and sending shoppers running from the building.
Several people at the Northgate Shopping Center in Deland, Florida called emergency services at 7:20 p.m. to report that an aircraft had plunged into the complex, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
Witnesses described seeing the plane sputtering just before it plummeted and hit the building. The pilot and one passenger were airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
They were both in critical condition, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. At least five people had been injured, two with burns.
A witness reported that the twin-engine plane appeared to have crashed into the roof of a Publix chain supermarket.
Marleny Arevalo, a manager at a nearby fast food restaurant, said she didn’t hear or see the crash but customers entering the Taco Bell were rattled by the incident.
She ran with another employee to the shopping center and saw flames that appeared to be shooting from the rear of the Publix branch.
“There was a lot of smoke. When I first saw it, there was fire in the air and then it was just a lot of black smoke,” Marleny Arevalo added.
Fire crews on the scene blocked off surrounding roads. Roth Peeler, who lives about 300 feet from the store, told the Orlando Sentinel he watched the plane go down.
Roth Peeler said: “A small, yellow plane spiraled right down and through the roof and just exploded. Not a piece of the plane came out. It’s all in the store.
“I went around the front and saw people running out of the store and trying to get into their cars and out of the parking lot.”
Deland is about 20 miles west of Daytona Beach and the shopping center is close to Deland Municipal Airport.
A dark column of smoke could be seen wafting from the rooftop of the shopping center.
Around 20 fire engines were at the shopping complex, using extended ladders to pour water on to the flames.
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that the FAA did not provide air traffic services for the flight and had no immediate information.
Publix has 748 store locations in Florida and dozens more in four other Southern states. It is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the U.S.