An Australian pilot and four American tourists on a golfing holiday have been killed after their charter plane crashed into a shopping mall in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, shortly after take-off.
The twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air crashed about 45 minutes before the Direct Factory Outlet mall in Essendon was to open, police minister Lisa Neville said.
The plane had taken off from Melbourne’s second-biggest airport at Essendon, which is next to the mall, on a flight to King Island, 160 miles to the south, Ms Neville said.
The US embassy in Canberra said four victims were Americans and Greg Reynolds De Haven and Russell Munsch were identified by their families on social media as two of the victims.
“The US embassy in Canberra and US consulate in Melbourne are working closely with local authorities,” the embassy said.
“We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance to the families of the victims.”
The pilot was Max Quartermain, owner of charter company Corporate and Leisure Travel.
Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane said no one on the ground was injured.
“Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt,” he said.
The pilot reported a “catastrophic engine failure” moments before the plane crashed into a storage area at the rear of the mall, police said.
Police and paramedics rushed to the crash site, where firefighters doused the flames.
A witness who gave his name as Jason told Australian Broadcasting Corporation he was passing the mall in a taxi when the plane crashed.
“I saw this plane coming in really low and fast. I couldn’t see the impact but when it hit the building there was a massive fireball,” he said.
“I could feel the heat through the window of the taxi, and then a wheel - it looked like a plane wheel - bounced on the road and hit the front of the taxi as we were driving along.”