Five people reportedly died after the plane they were in crashed after takeoff and burst into flames Saturday night.
According to a press release from the city of South Lake Tahoe, the plane took off from Lake Tahoe Airport and crashed shortly afterward in a meadow off Winnemucca Avenue near Barton Hospital.
According to El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Pete Van Arnum, witnesses heard an engine having trouble, then saw the plane turn, dip and crash into brush near the edge of the meadow. It burst into flames upon impact, creating a fire that spread to about an acre.
Federal Aviation Administration Regional Public Affairs Manager Allen Kenitzer said the plane, a Piper PA32, crashed under unknown circumstances at 9:45 p.m. and was destroyed by fire. According to FAA records, the plane was a fixed-wing, single-engine craft registered to owners in Fresno, Calif. Francisco J. De la Mora is one of the co-owners of the plane.
De la Mora is owner of JDM Transport Inc., a trucking company based in Fresno, company dispatcher Jose Lopez told the Associated Press. Delamora took a "personal trip" to Lake Tahoe for the day Saturday with his wife, Lorena, a 7-year-old daughter and two friends, and had planned to return the same day, Lopez said.
"We're waiting to hear from the FAA," said Lopez, who has worked for the company 11 years. He declined further comment.
Much of the wreckage was destroyed by the fire, making identification of the plane and victims difficult, Arnum said. Authorities wouldn't release any information about the victims until positive identifications have been made, he said.
Winnemucca Avenue resident Dr. Jean Makris said she was home Saturday night when she heard the crash.
"I heard a noise first then saw a fireball. It burned very hot and brightly," she said. "I called 911, everyone called 911; and some of us went into the meadow to see if there were any survivors. It seemed that there were not."
Makris said emergency crews arrived at the scene and moved everyone out of the meadow so they could fight the fire and begin the investigation.
According to the FAA, there were multiple victims and no survivors of the crash. The names of victims are not being released until notification of families is confirmed.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those that perished in this tragic accident. Thanks to the quick and cooperative efforts by multiple agencies; the fire caused by this crash was put out quickly," Mayor Claire Fortier stated in the release.
According to the city, the crash was not related to the Lake in the Sky Air Show, which took place earlier Saturday.
The location of the plane crash is within El Dorado County limits and the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department is the lead agency of this investigation. FAA and National Transportation Safety Board officials arrived on site today to perform an investigation and to identify the cause of the crash.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.