RENTON, Wash. – Two small planes collided over a busy highway in this Seattle (search) suburb, with one smashing through the roof of an empty school, killing both people aboard, police said. The second plane landed safely at a nearby airport.
The collision between the single-engine Cessna 152 (search) and a float plane happened as the planes were both approaching the Renton Municipal Airport on Thursday. Lt. Greg Strome of the Boeing Co. fire department said the Cessna's windshield hit the float plane's right pontoon.
Jim Blundred, a physical education teacher who lives a half-block from the elementary school, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he saw the crash from his deck.
"It appeared the little Cessna was making a little circle," Blundred said. "What I saw was the little plane clip the seaplane — not very much, only a little — and then it just went straight down, boom. I mean, straight down."
He and other witnesses raced into the school to try to help the passengers. "We got to the upstairs floor. I saw a leg sticking out of the wreckage, a bunch of debris, and smelled a lot of gas," Blundred said.
The school closed for remodeling after classes ended in June, police spokeswoman Penny Bartley (search) said. Construction crews had left for the day when the plane crashed.
The Cessna, registered to the 12-member Subsonic Flying Club at the airport, was being flown by a 25-year-old student pilot who purchased a membership about a month ago and a 26-year-old instructor, club President Robert Howard told The Seattle Times. Both were Boeing engineers, Howard said.
There were no reports of injuries to the five people aboard the float plane, but fire trucks were monitoring fuel leaking from the aircraft.
Pilot Fred Bahr and passenger Lee McEachron of Seattle said a water landing was ruled out because the floats were skewed by the crash.
"We were flying flat and level, and he passed under us and hit us," McEachron told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I saw it on impact. It's an awful sound. You're at 1,000 feet, and your first thought is, 'We're going to crash,' and the second thought was, 'We're still flying.'"
The airport, about 25 minutes south of downtown Seattle, is used mostly by small aircraft.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.