CLEARWATER, Fla. - Stunned residents are shaken up after a plane crashed into their Clearwater mobile home community Thursday night, killing three people, and destroying multiple homes.
According to the FAA, one person on board the plane and two people on the ground died when the plane slammed into the Bayside Waters Mobile Home Park along U.S. 19 around 7 p.m.
As many as nine people had been inside the mobile home on Pagoda Drive shortly before the crash, but all but two had left the home, according to the city.
Crews were still combing through the wreckage on Friday morning and say they do not know why the plane crashed.
SkyFOX flew over the scene of a deadly plane crash at a Clearwater mobile home park Thursday night.
When the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza V-35 plane crashed into the small, close-knit, 55-plus community, it immediately burst into flames. Residents say they heard something like an explosion or a bomb going off.
According to city officials, the plane had taken off from Vero Beach earlier in the day.
The Clearwater fire chief says there were four homes affected by the crash and fire and at least one home was destroyed.
Residents inside the neighboring homes were able to make it out safely.
Wayne Smith, a resident of the mobile home community, told FOX 13 that his best friend lived in the home that the plane crashed into, and they had just spent time golfing together.
"It’s the worst possible news anybody could get," Smith said. "We were together and ten minutes later they’re dead. I can’t understand why. I just don’t know. We golf once a week together. We’re just a close-knit family, even though we’re not family. We’ve known each other for a long time, and they were all great, great people and I can’t describe the feeling that I have right now because I just loved them."
Witnesses say that the plane did not have its lights on and was coming in at a 45-degree angle before the crash.
FAA officials say the pilot reported engine failure and responders on the ground began staging for an emergency landing at Clearwater St. Pete Airport (PIE), before the plane crashed about three miles north of the runway.
As of Friday morning, officials were still digging through the wreckage.
Clearwater Fire Chief Scott Ehlers said emergency vehicles designed to handle aircraft crashes were quickly re-routed to the scene.
"That's critical because those aircraft response vehicles are designed to put large fires out and that was a critical component of maintaining this mobile home park," said Ehlers. "The crews did a phenomenal job of getting the fire knocked down very quickly."
According to Ehlers, firefighters were on scene within seven minutes of the crash, which minimized damage and likely saved lives.
Police are expected to provide an update on the identity of the victims once positive identification has been made and relatives notified.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.