Two people were killed when a single-engine plane that took off from Hawthorne Municipal Airport crashed into a nearby condominium complex Friday, authorities said.
The crash occurred about 5:10 p.m. in the 4500 block of Broadway, which is less than a mile west of the airport and close to Hawthorne High School. Firefighters said the victims were both on the plane, which was based at the Hawthorne airport. They have not been identified.
County Fire Inspector Randall Wright said the plane’s occupants were dead when the first of about 50 firefighters responded. No one was hurt on the ground, firefighters said.
Authorities said the plane had just taken off from the general aviation airport at 120th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, which is adjacent to the Tesla Design Studio and the SpaceX rocket manufacturing facility.
FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer described the plane as a two-seat Grumman American AA-1B Trainer.
A witness, Robert Sanchez, said he heard the red plane making weird noises before it crashed. Residents said they heard explosions that sounded like fireworks going off.
Three young men playing video games next door said the house shook.
“It sounded like a car crash,” said Delano Beckles, 18.
Hasani Barrett, 19, said they thought it was an earthquake but looked outside and saw the plane nose down, leaning against the house.
The plane burst into flames in front of them. They ran outside, grabbed their dog and escaped to safety. As they ran, they heard three or four explosions.
No one was home next door where the plane crashed.
Wright said firefighters doused the flames in about 10 minutes. Two units were damaged in the fire and residents of five units were displaced, firefighters said.
Television news coverage showed the plane on a patio area outside of a town house. Parts of the plane were strewn on the other side of the unit.
Hawthorne City Manager Arnie Shadbehr said the plane was being flown by a student pilot.
“We deeply regret the loss of life in this situation,” said Hawthorne Mayor Alex Vargas, who immediately went to the scene. “The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate and tell us what caused this unfortunate accident.
“In the meantime, we congratulate Hawthorne’s Police Department and our county firefighters for immediately securing the location.”
The FAA and the NTSB will investigate, Kenitzer said.
A small plane hits an apartment killing 2 people on board. No one was home at the time. pic.twitter.com/XjLkLXYEZu
— Melissa MacBride (@abc7melissa) June 11, 2016