Three Die When Plane Smashes Las Vegas Home, Sparking Blaze

Three people died Friday when a home-built aircraft crashed into a house and exploded about a half-mile from the North Las Vegas Airport, authorities said.

The pilot and one resident of the house died in the 6:28 a.m. crash, and another person in the house died after being taken to University Medical Center in Las Vegas with "severe trauma," Deputy North Las Vegas Fire Chief Kevin Brame said.

The names of the dead were not immediately made public.

The pilot of the rear-propeller Velocity 173 RG aircraft radioed that he was in trouble shortly after taking off from the North Las Vegas Airport, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Hawthorne, Calif.

"He said he was unable to gain altitude and was going down," Gregor said.

The plane appeared to have crashed through the roof over the living room in the modest, stucco home nestled in a working-class neighborhood. Brame said authorities believe three people lived in the home, and one was not home at the time of the crash.

Neighbor Letizia Gonzalez described the residents as a couple and the man's adult son, who kept the yard neat and were friendly to neighbors.

Gonzalez, 17, said she awoke to the sound of an explosion, "like a bomb."

"We came outside and we saw flames coming out of the house. We went to look and it started exploding even more," she said. "They were nice people. It's really sad."

Firefighters quickly doused an intense fire. The plane appeared all but incinerated within an hour of the crash. No other homes appeared damaged.

Gregor characterized the aircraft as "experimental," and said it can be built from a kit. FAA records showed the aircraft was certified for flight in 2002, he said, and was owned by a Las Vegas resident. The name of the owner was not released.

Gregor said FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were traveling to North Las Vegas to investigate the crash.

North Las Vegas Airport is the second-busiest airport in Nevada after McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, according to the airport's Web site. It's a busy hub for small planes and jets, and serves as a base for sightseeing flights to the Grand Canyon and other attractions.

It was the 63rd busiest airport in the country in 2007 when it handled 216,000 flights, according to FAA records.