A small plane crashed into a construction site in a densely populated part of India’s financial capital Mumbai on Thursday, killing five people including one on the ground, officials said.
Images broadcast on Indian news channels showed flames and black smoke billowing from the area, which sits right next to several high-rise residential towers.
There were four people on the 12-seater aircraft, disaster management officials said, with witnesses reporting hearing a loud blast as it smashed into a half-built structure.
“There was a huge explosion and the adjacent tree caught fire and the fire spilled on the streets,” a man was quoted as saying on the NDTV news channel.
A woman, who was also not named, reported hearing three loud explosions and described seeing a “major fire”.
Video footage posted online showed bright orange flames licking the side of a building next to a construction site.
Other images shot after the fire was put out showed firemen sifting through the twisted wreckage of the twin-prop plane as crowds looked on.
The white tailfin seemed to be the only recognisable part of the aircraft not consumed in the blaze.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the plane was a turbo-prop King Air C-90 and had been on a test flight from the nearby Juhu airstrip.
“There were two pilots and two aircraft maintenance engineers on board. All on board (the) aircraft along with one person on ground are dead,” the DGCA statement read.
– ‘Completely charred’ –
A medical officer at Rajawadi hospital, where the victims were taken, said the dead included three men and two women.
“There bodies were completely charred due to the fire,” she told AFP, adding that two injured had also been admitted and were in a stable condition.
It was not raining at the time of the accident and weather did not appear to have been a factor in the crash.
DGCA said it was sending a team to investigate the cause, adding that the aircraft was owned by a private operator who had purchased it from the Uttar Pradesh state government.
P Rahangdale, Mumbai’s chief fire officer, said several fire engines had rushed to the spot.
India’s National Disaster Response Force said it was also sending a team to make sure no there were no injured trapped under any rubble at the crash site.
Former Indian Aviation Minister Praful Patel tweeted his condolences and praised the pilot for the guiding the plane into an open area.
“Salute to the pilot who showed presence of mind to avoid a big mishap, saving many lives at the cost of her own life,” he wrote.
There have been several crashes involving small planes in India in recent years.
In 2015 a light aircraft belonging to India’s paramilitary border force crashed after taking off from New Delhi airport, killing 10 people on board.
Ten people were killed in 2011 after an air ambulance crashed into a residential area in Faridabad, near the capital. Seven people on board and three on the ground were killed.
The last deadly air crash involving a commercial plane happened in 2010 when an Air India Boeing 737-800 over shot the runway while landing at Mangalore airport in southern India.
At least 158 passengers were killed and nearly a dozen others survived the crash.