NEW YORK – Four people were killed Saturday when a single-engine plane crashed on the beach in Coney Island (search), hitting the sand as stunned sunbathers looked on, officials said.
The four victims, all on board the Cessna 172S (search), were dead at the scene following the 1:30 p.m. crash at the popular Brooklyn beach, Federal Aviation Administration (search) spokeswoman Holly Baker said. There were no reports of any injuries on the ground.
Eyewitnesses said the plane was circling above Coney Island when its engine suddenly stalled, and the aircraft quickly plunged into the beach. The pilot tried desperately to right the four-year-old plane after it went into a tailspin, said Herbert Lecler, 51, who was fishing on the beach.
"He couldn't, and he bounced on that beach," Lecler said.
Joshua McCabe, a registered nurse visiting from San Diego, was eating inside Nathan's Famous hot dog restaurant when he heard the crash. McCabe and another witness rushed to the scene, where they found the pilot already dead and a female passenger barely alive.
Within seconds, he said, "she wasn't breathing and then she lost her pulse."
Dick Zigun, a longtime Coney Island resident who was at the crash site, said it looked like the plane had come down nose-first. Several sunbathers were on the beach at the time, although the crowd was sparse, he said.
"The wings are broken off, and the cockpit glass was smashed up," Zigun said. "It didn't look like anyone could survive that."
Police and fire officials moved quickly to close off the beach after the crash. Dozens of people were gathered along the boardwalk staring out at the wreckage.
The crash occurred within sight of the Wonder Wheel (search) attraction at the world-renowned beach, home to the Cyclone rollercoaster and the Astroland amusement park. The plane hit the beach near KeySpan Park, a minor league baseball stadium.
Coney Island hosts tens of thousands of New Yorkers during the summer months, and its more famous visitors in the past included Charles Lindbergh and Sigmund Freud.
The plane was registered to RJ Ventures LLC of Paramus, N.J. Authorities did not identify any of the victims after the crash.