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Smoke billows from the house in Yorba Linda after a plane crashed into it. Photo: Reuters

Small plane came apart in mid-air, before crashing into California house, killing five people

  • Aerial footage shows plane parts, including a propeller, scattered on rooftops and driveways of burnt house

Five people died and two others were injured after a small plane apparently came apart, raining debris across a Southern California neighbourhood and igniting a house fire before landing in a backyard, authorities said on Sunday.

The male pilot, who was the only person in the twin-engined plane, and four people in the Yorba Linda house that caught fire died, Orange County Sheriff’s Lt Cory Martino said at a news conference on Sunday night. He says the deceased occupants of the home were two males and two females. No other identifying information such as names or ages was immediately released.

The Cessna 414A took off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport about a dozen miles west of the blaze, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.

A two-storey house burst into flames after being struck by the main cabin and one engine of the plane, sending panicked neighbours into the streets. The second engine dislodged and fell onto the street, creating a large hole in the asphalt, according to Eliott Simpson, an aviation accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The two injured were taken to a hospital with burn injuries. Photo: AP

“It was a boom. It sounded like something exploded. It shook our house,” said John Wolbart, who lives a block away. He said he ran to the burning house and saw a woman come out with singed hair.

The wounded were taken to a hospital with burn injuries, said Pokey Sanchez, an assistant chief with the Orange County Fire Authority. A firefighter was also treated for a minor injury.

Clint Langford, who lives about a half-mile away, said he was in his living room when he heard a low rumbling.

“It’s the eerie, low rumbling sound that keeps getting lower and louder. It was scary,” he said. “And then all of a sudden boom. It shook the house.”

He looked out his front door and could see plane parts falling out the sky in the distance.

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Pat Rogers, who lives about a mile from the crash site, told The Orange County Register he saw the plane on fire and coming apart.

Video posted on Twitter showed panicked residents running to the house as it became engulfed in flames and dark smoke. One man doused a burning wing that landed on the street with a garden hosepipe.

Aerial footage taken from news helicopters shows plane parts, including side panels and a propeller, scattered on rooftops and driveways near the burnt house. The main body of the twin-engined plane was found in the backyard of another home not far from the burnt house. The fire spread to an SUV that was parked in the driveway.

Debris was scattered over four blocks, Simpson said. Rain from a winter storm helped firefighters extinguish the house fire. They planned to search the burnt house in case there were additional victims, Sanchez said.

The National Transportation and Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.