Monday, April 02, 2012

Florida: Five hurt, 3 seriously, after small plane crashes into Publix in DeLand

Authorities say a small plane has crashed into a central Florida shopping center, and reports indicated at least five people have been injured.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office reports that several people at the Northgate Shopping Center in Deland called 911 around 7:20 p.m. Monday about the crash. They described seeing the plane sputter, hit the building and burst into flames not far from a municipal airport.

The sheriff's office reports a pilot and a passenger aboard were airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Separately, The Daytona Beach News-Journal said emergency workers reported at least five people were injured, two of them with burns. A News-Journal photographer at the scene said the plane appeared to have crashed into the roof of a Publix chain supermarket.

Immediate details remained sketchy.

DeLand — Five people were injured when an experimental airplane crashed into the roof of a Publix in this city 40 miles north of Orlando.

Two people on the plane and one on the ground received serious burns, said Sgt. Chris Estes, a DeLand police spokesman. Two more people on the ground were injured.

The crash happened about 7:20 p.m. two miles west of DeLand Municipal Airport, where the plane had just taken off, Estes said.

Roth Peeler, who lives about 300 feet behind the store at 299 E. International Speedway Boulevard, said he saw the plane go down. Afterward, he walked to the front of the store and saw people running, trying to get into their cars and out of the parking lot, he said.

"A small single-engine, yellow plane spiraled right down and through the roof and just exploded," Peeler said. "Not a piece of the plane came out. It's all in the store."

Resident Frank Plumb also witnessed the crash.

"I was sitting down, eating dinner and heard a boom," he said. "When I looked out my window, I saw a black cloud of smoke."

Though no flames are visible now, smoke is pouring out of the building. About 20 firetrucks and other emergency vehicles are at Northgate Shopping Center, where the Publix is located.

Roads in the area are shut down because of the incident, and motorists are advised to stay away from the area.

"The entire shopping center is pretty much closed at this point," Estes said.

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said two men were in the plane and were alive after the crash. Both were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center with severe burns.

He said the three other injured people were inside the store at the time of the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be notified, police said. An FAA spokeswoman said she had no information on the crash.

A small plane crashed about 7 p.m. into the Publix on International Speedway Boulevard in DeLand, and rescue workers said five people were injured, two with burns.

DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus interrupted a City Commission meeting and said he heard the pilot might have been killed in the crash, and people were injured.

Randel Henderson, deputy chief of the DeLand Police Department, said he was en route to the crash and couldn't confirm whether there were injuries.

"It was pretty chaotic," he said of a description he received of the scene. "I can only imagine what I am going to find when I get there."

A News-Journal photographer, Pete Bauer, speaking from the scene said fire trucks and ambulances were outside the smoking Publix, and it appeared the plane had crashed into the roof toward the building's rear.

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