A Beechcraft King Air B200 (VH-ZCR) charter plane on take-off from Essendon airport (YMES) crashed into a Melbourne shopping complex Tuesday morning killing all five people on board and sparking a massive blaze.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane confirmed no one on board the plane survived the tragedy, but declined to give details of the victims.
Assistant Commissioner Leane said it is believed there were no fatalities apart from those in the plane. The Beechcraft King Air, five-person charter flight to King Island crashed soon after take off from Essendon Airport in the city’s north at 9:00 am.
The pilot was aged in his 60s and his four passengers were American tourists, Channel Seven reported.
The Advocate newspaper in Tasmania quoted a source on King Island as saying the plane was carrying golfers.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews refused to confirm any details of the passengers’ identities.
“We are currently reaching out to their families to provide them with the support that they need to try to comfort them at what must be just such a horrible moment,” he told a media conference.
Australian Corporate Jet Centres told the ABC the plane (shown above is now operated by boutique private charter flight operator Corporate and Leisure Aviation based at Essendon airport.
The plane called mayday as it was taking off and Victoria Police Superintendent Mick Frewen said it appeared to be affected by a “catastrophic engine failure”
The plane crashed into the back of two shops, Focus on Furniture and JB HiFi, he said.
Police are yet to release any details of possible casualties.
More than 16 fire crews fought to put out the blaze at the DFO factory outlet complex near Bulla Rd in Essendon Fields.
“It appears a light plane, which is a charter flight, has impacted the DFO [shopping centre] at Essendon Fields. “There’s also debris that’s been left on the [Tullamarine] freeway.”
Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley told a media conference Essendon Airport would be closed until further notice while the investigation into the cause of the crash get underway.
He said in-bound lanes of the Tullamarine Freeway would remain closed for a number of hours until that can be cleared and evidence collected evidence for the investigation.
An emergency services spokesman at the scene said motorists should avoid the area.
“Our advice to motorists is find an alternative route. We just want to make sure that’s preserved as much as possible,” he said.
“We are awaiting CASA advice and the Bureau of Air Safety.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has asked witnesses to the plane crash to call 1800 020 616 to help with its investigation.
Fire Under control
A spokeswoman from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade said DFO fire was brought under control about 10:30 am.
It took about 56 fire fighters 90 minutes to bring the blaze, caused by the plane crash, under control, the MFB said.
“The fire has been brought under control and the incident has been handed over to Victoria Police.”
Mr Andrews praised the work of firefighters.
“This was a very complex and unpredictable fire, but our highly skilled trained firefighter efforts have done an outstanding job in extinguishing this blaze,” he said.
The shopping centre was yet to open, but the wellbeing of all staff at the complex has not been confirmed.
A spokesperson from furniture retailer Nick Scali confirmed the store was staffed at the time, but could not confirm whether any were affected.
Retailer Spotlight, a tenant at the DFO complex issued a statement confirming the aircraft crashed into its rear warehouse and that “all staff had been accounted for”.
A spokesperson from another tenant, Focus on Furniture, told The New Daily that no staff were at the store at the time of the crash.
JB HiFi and the Good Guys both confirmed all staff are accounted for.
‘It was shaking’
Nick Scali employee Grace Martin told The New Daily she was sitting outside the shopping complex when she saw the plane.
“I saw the plane flying across the top of the roof and it was shaking,” she said.
“I ran across to Dan Murphy’s. I heard the big bang and saw all the flames. This is just really sad.”
Nearby resident Max Paladino told The New Daily he ran over to the crash site workers from a nearby construction site to see if he could help.
“It was just adrenaline,” he said. “There was no way possible we could do anything.
“You could feel the heat.