Federal investigators are working to determine why a twin-turbine propeller plane dropped from the sky and crashed into a nature preserve north of the runway at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
Four people on the plane were killed in Sunday’s fiery tragedy. No one on the ground was hurt in an area around the airport dense with businesses and homes.
The Piper PA 31 went down at about 4:30 p.m. in a wooded area near the 2400 block of Northwest 62nd Street after declaring an emergency, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now it’s up to investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board to figure out why.
The plane reportedly left from Orlando Executive Airport for Fort Lauderdale, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com. The Broward airport serves smaller planes, business jets and air charters.
The victims’ names and the tail number of the plane were not immediately available.
Division Chief of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Chantal Botting said firefighters cut through a fence to gain access to the crash site and extinguished the fire within minutes.
Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Heiser said when firefighters arrived there was a large column of black smoke.
“Firefighters had to make their way through trees and brush to access the scene,” Heiser said.
About 12 firefighters responded with two fire engines, an aircraft rescue team truck and two chief trucks.
Elyssa Service, 22, witnessed the crash while she was playing Ultimate Frisbee nearby.
“I heard it and then we looked over and there was smoke, and about 10 of us ran over there to help," said Service, who works as a flight attendant. “The smoke was too big, and by the time that we had gotten there, it was engulfed from the inside out.”
The crash affected Service, who works for American Airlines.
"It's just sad. I'm mostly sad for the families, and it is just a really rough situation," she said.
Bavon Sylvain, 28, was running track on the nearby Calvary Christian Academy campus as the crash happened. He said he immediately got to his phone to record video of the cloud of smoke rising from the nature preserve.
The airport remained open Sunday evening, but Runway 13 was closed due to its proximity to the crash, Heiser said.
The plane did not hit any structures or people in the area, according to police.
Sunday’s crash was similar to a 2013 incident where another twin-engine Piper crashed into a warehouse parking lot near Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, killing three people on board.
In February, four people were killed when a Beech 1900 aircraft went down near Miami Executive Airport in Kendall. Like Sunday’s crash, the plane crashed into a wooded area, missing homes and businesses.