HENDERSON, Nev. – A small plane crashed and burst into flames on a street in a southern Nevada residential neighborhood Monday, killing one person and badly injuring three others, authorities said.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sgt. John Sheahan said two males and two females were aboard the single-engine Piper Cherokee when it crashed in Henderson, just south of Las Vegas. He said it was a miracle no one on the ground was injured.
"I think we can attribute that to the pilot trying to put it down in a safe place," he said. "You're talking the plane crashed maybe 20 or 30 feet (from the nearest home)."
The debris field is a block long, and one of the wings ended up in the backyard of a home, the sergeant said. The main body of the fuselage came to rest on Morning Mauve Avenue.
A witness, Robert Sutton, told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas that the flaming plane came to a rest upside-down, and he and other residents doused it with hoses before flipping it over to help two victims trapped inside.
Police Lt. Joe Ojeda told the Las Vegas Sun that the plane struck two block walls, a streetlight pole and a tree before landing in the street, and that residents pulled two occupants from the burning wreckage before firefighters arrived. The two were conscious at the time, he said.
"It appeared the way the aircraft was lined up that he did try to land on the road itself," Ojeda told the Sun. "On first blush it looks like he did try to do some kind of maneuver to get down as safely as he could."
The injured, whose identities were not released, were taken University Medical Center with life-threatening burns and trauma. Hospital spokeswoman Danita Cohen said two were listed in serious condition and one in critical condition.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the plane took off from Henderson Executive Airport shortly after 8 a.m. and was unable to gain altitude. The pilot tried to return to Henderson but crashed about two miles northwest of the airport.
No flight plan was filed, authorities said, and the destination of the plane was not immediately known. The aircraft was registered to a Louisiana resident.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Joshua Cawthra told reporters at the scene late Monday afternoon that he would examine the histories of the aircraft and pilot and sift through the wreckage for clues.
A preliminary report on the crash will be available later this week, he said, and the full investigation will take six months to a year to complete.
"I really want to reinstate some normal life here because I know it's pretty tragic," Cawthra said. "It's going to be a long few days."
The plane had arrived at the Henderson airport Thursday, he added.
Sutton told KLAS-TV he heard the sputtering plane pass over his house at low altitude before there was a loud boom a few seconds later.
He and other residents doused the flames with hoses, then flipped it over and tried to help two victims trapped inside. Two other people in the plane were sitting in someone's yard, he said.
Sutton said he saw a woman in the plane who was coherent.
"She was really badly burned. Her face was so badly burned, and she could barely open her eyes, and her hair was all burned," Sutton told KLAS.