Published January 13, 2015
A midair collision Thursday between two light planes over this south Seattle (search) suburb sent one plane crashing through the roof of an empty school, killing the two people aboard, officials said.
The second aircraft, a float plane, landed safely at the nearby Renton airport (search), with the five people aboard escaping serious injury, according to one passenger's account.
Renton police spokeswoman Penny Bartley confirmed two deaths in the plane that crashed into Kennydale Elementary School.
Federal Aviation Administration (search) duty officer Karen Byrd in Seattle said the deceased appeared to be the only passengers aboard the single-engine Cessna 152.
"There's no flight plan on file, but from what the fire department told me there was just two people on board," Byrd said. The victims were not immediately identified.
The two-story school building was closed for remodeling after classes ended in June, and was empty at the time of the crash, Bartley said.
Byrd said the midair collision occurred at about 5:45 p.m.
The planes were approaching the Renton airport, located at the south end of Lake Washington, when the collision happened, she said.
"Both aircraft were coming in from the north ... and were pretty much side by side," Byrd said.
The float plane ended up parked on grass next to a runway, and fire trucks were monitoring fuel leaking from that plane, Byrd said.
Lee McEachron, a passenger on the float plane, told KING-TV that he and other passengers did not see the second plane coming.
"All we saw was a red and white Cessna that passed beneath us and wiped out the floats," he said. "At that point the pilot made the decision it was not safe to land on the water so we opted to put it on the grass. Everybody got out fine.
"Of course the impact was pretty substantial," he added. "It was violent and I immediately looked out and both floats were canted about 20 or 30 degrees, which would have made it impossible to land on the water. So the pilot, who's a very skilled pilot, made the decision to land on the grass."
The float plane circled the Renton tower so airport officials could assess damage before it came in for a landing.
Fire officials determined there was no risk of fire or explosion from aircraft fuel in the wreckage at the school, Bartley said.
"That'll be something that they continue to monitor while they're here," she said.
The Renton airport is about 25 minutes south of downtown Seattle, and is used mostly by small aircraft.