DELAND, Fla. — A small plane sputtered and crashed in flames into a Florida shopping center Monday evening, injuring at least five people and sending frightened shoppers running to the parking lot, authorities and reports said.
Several people in the Northgate Shopping Center in Deland dialed 911 around 7:20 p.m. to report the plane had plunged into the complex, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said. The callers described seeing the plane sputtering just before it plunged and hit the building.
The sheriff's office said a pilot and a passenger from the plane were airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Details on their conditions were not immediately available.
Emergency workers reported at least five people in all had been injured, two of them with burns, The Daytona Beach News-Journal (http://bit.ly/HE0d4a ) reported.
A photographer for the newspaper who went to the shopping center soon afterward said the plane appeared to have crashed into the roof of a Publix chain supermarket.
Marleny Arevalo, a manager at a nearby fast food restaurant, said she didn't hear or see the crash but customers entering her Taco Bell outlet reacted with shocked looks moments afterward.
"They said, "Something's burning!" she told The Associated Press by telephone.
Arevalo said she quickly ran with another employee to the shopping center and saw flames in the air that appeared to be shooting from the back of a Publix supermarket.
"There was a lot of smoke. When I first saw it, there was fire in the air and then it was just a lot of black smoke," she said, adding fire officials immediately blocked surrounding roads.
Roth Peeler, who lives about 300 feet behind the store, told the Orlando Sentinel (http://thesent.nl/HE49Su ) he saw the plane — a twin-engine aircraft — go down.
"A small single-engine, yellow plane spiraled right down and through the roof and just exploded," Peeler said. "Not a piece of the plane came out. It's all in the store.
"I went around the front and saw people running out of the store and trying to get into their cars and out of the parking lot."
Deland is about 20 miles west of Daytona Beach and the shopping center is not far from the Deland Municipal Airport.
A dark column of smoke could be seen wafting from the rooftop of the shopping center in news photographs. About 20 fire trucks at one point crowded about the complex and firefighters atop a truck's extension ladder poured streams of water on the flames.
Deland Fire authorities did not immediately respond to calls for comment/
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told The Associated Press in an email that the FAA did not provide air traffic services for the flight and had no immediate information.
Flight details of the plane and the number of people aboard were not immediately available.
A call by AP to Publix at its Lakeland, Fla., headquarters was not answered Wednesday evening. Its website says it has 748 store locations in Florida and dozens more in four other Southern states, the largest employe-owned supermarket chain in the U.S.