An Australian pilot and four American tourists on a golfing vacation were killed when a light plane crashed in flames into a shopping mall on Tuesday shortly after takeoff in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said.
The five were on a twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air that crashed about 45 minutes before the Direct Factory Outlet mall in suburban Essendon was to open, Police Minister Lisa Neville said.
The U.S. Embassy in Canberra confirmed that four victims were U.S. citizens. Greg Reynolds De Haven and Russell Munsch have been identified by their families on social media as two of the victims.
“The U.S. Embassy in Canberra and U.S. Consulate in Melbourne are working closely with local authorities. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance to the families of the victims,” an embassy statement said.
The pilot was Max Quartermain, owner of the charter company Corporate and Leisure Travel.
The plane had taken off from Melbourne’s second-biggest airport at Essendon for a golfing trip to King Island, 160 miles to the south, officials said.
The mall adjoins the airport.
Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said no one outside the plane was injured.
“Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt,” Leane said.
The pilot reported a “catastrophic engine failure” moments before the plane crashed into a storage area at the rear of the mall, police said.