Five killed when plane crashes in California parking lot

Five people were killed Sunday when a small plane trying to make an emergency landing crashed in a shopping center parking lot in Orange County, California, southeast of Los Angeles, authorities said.

All of the victims, none of whom were immediately identified, were aboard the twin-engine Cessna when it went down at about 12:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. ET) as it was headed for an emergency landing at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.

No one on the ground was injured, but an unoccupied car in the parking lot was extensively damaged.

The plane was flying from Northern California and had been given approval to land at John Wayne after the pilot declared an emergency, said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating along with the Federal Aviation Administration. Information on the nature of the emergency wasn't immediately available.

The plane went down in a parking lot just outside a Staples business supply store about 1½ miles from the airport.

Knudson said the pilot didn't declare a flight plan and had decided to fly under visual flight rules, which isn't uncommon in good, clear weather.

Orange County Fire Capt. Tony Bommarito said at a news conference that while the plane leaked jet fuel, it didn't ignite.

"I don't know anything about what this pilot did or what he was thinking, but it could have been much more tragic," Bommarito said. "This was a Sunday afternoon, and we have people shopping, so the fact that we have no injuries on the ground is a miracle in itself."