Officials: Small plane crash in South Portland, Maine, kills 2 men

Two men were killed Saturday when the small plane they were in crashed into a city street shortly after taking off from Portland International Jetport, officials said.

The Yak-52, a Soviet training aircraft introduced in the 1970s, crashed at about 3:30 p.m. on Western Avenue, a normally busy road lined with strip malls, retail outlets, offices and two semiconductor manufacturing plants.

The crash of the two-seater plane killed the pilot, Mark Haskell, 42, and Thomas Casagrande, 66, according to the state medical examiner. Their hometowns were not released.

There were no injuries reported on the ground.

Justin Crabtree, 32, of Portland, was leaving a nearby Staples store when he saw the plane make a sharp turn before diving.

"It was just a sharp turn and straight down to the ground," he said.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators were called to the site. Calls to the FAA's public relations office weren't immediately returned.

The plane was based at the Portland International Jetport, but it wasn't immediately known where it was headed, said jetport Director Paul Bradbury.

When Crabtree ran to the plane, he saw two men inside.

"They were both passed away — hopefully on impact so there wasn't any suffering," he said.

After the crash, people gathered in parking lots to view the plane, which was covered by a blue tarp with the pilot and passenger still inside. Its tail had a red star on it and jutted out from beneath the tarp.

Jordan Jackson, 12, of South Portland, said he watched the plane from his back yard and took note because it was an older, unusual-looking plane.

"It took a wicked sharp turn; it went up and then down," Jackson said.

Officials expected a portion of Western Avenue to be blocked to traffic for hours while the crash was being investigated.