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Four killed when plane hits L.A. apartments

Los Angeles FBI says no evidence of terrorism

Police and firefighters gather outside the apartment building hit by a small plane on Friday.
Police and firefighters gather outside the apartment building hit by a small plane on Friday.

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A small plane crashed into an apartment building in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles setting the building ablaze (June 6)
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A small plane crashed into a three-story apartment building in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles late Friday afternoon, setting the structure ablaze and killing at least four people, according to officials.

One of those killed was believed to be the pilot. Another victim was later found buried under a pile of burning debris on the second floor, Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda said.

Two additional bodies were found Saturday, according to the coroner's office. It was not known if the two bodies found Saturday had been passengers in the plane or were in the apartment building, coroner's investigator Mario Sainz told The Associated Press.

Seven people were treated for injuries, and three of them were taken to a hospital, he said.

Firefighters found the resident's body as they were conducting a secondary search of the 14-unit Sharon Apartments, Rueda said. The body was burned beyond recognition.

One of the victims, a 25-year-old man, was critically injured with burns over 35 percent of his body, Los Angeles Fire Chief Bill Bamattre said.

Amateur video taken of the crash showed the plane -- which authorities said was a Beech 36 -- falling with its nose almost straight down, in the seconds before the crash. The building then burst into flames, which spread quickly through the structure.

Firefighters were combing the remains of the Sharon Apartments for other possible victims after the blaze was put out. The central part of the building collapsed, and the structure will have to be shored up to complete the search, Rueda said.

The plane took off from Santa Monica Municipal Airport, about 10 miles southwest of the crash site, airport spokesman Samuel Reyes said.

Donn Walker, a spokesman for the regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration, said the plane left the airport about 3:45 p.m. [6:45 p.m. EDT]. Seven minutes later, the Santa Monica control tower handed the pilot off to controllers at a regional air traffic control center, but the pilot never communicated with the center, Walker said. The plane crashed into the building at 3:55 p.m.

Walker said no flight plan was filed, but the pilot had apparently told Hawthorne Flight Services he was headed to Sun Valley, Idaho. Walker also said the number of people on the flight is unknown. The identity of the pilot is known but is not yet being released, he said.

Police officials said there was so far no evidence that the crash was anything other than an accident, but they were treating the area as a crime scene as a precaution. National Transportation Safety Board officials were on the scene investigating the crash.

The neighborhood where the crash occurred, just south of West Hollywood, is predominantly Orthodox Jewish. The plane hit the building hours before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.

Cheryl Mimura, spokeswoman for the FBI field office in Los Angeles, said FBI agents were at the scene helping police, but that "there is absolutely no intelligence to suggest this is a terror-related incident.

"However, we can't completely rule it out," she said. "The FBI will investigate to determine the cause of the crash."

The building had a parking garage on the first floor and apartments on the two upper floors. The plane struck the top floor and went through to the bottom floor, setting all three on fire, Bamattre said.

Witness Steve Smith told CNN that at least one man was injured when he jumped from a window to escape the flames.

Some witnesses reported hearing the plane sputter before the crash.

NTSB investigator Wayne Pollack said the bulk of the fuselage was buried in the debris on the bottom floor of the building.

After the crash, emergency crews treated the injured, using makeshift triage centers on orange and yellow tarps spread out on grass in nearby lawns. Several men were placed on stretchers, hooked up to medical equipment and rushed to nearby ambulances.

Dozens of other emergency officials worked to douse the flames at the apartment complex. Fire crews could be seen at street level and on the building's roof.

Los Angeles Fire Battalion Chief Bob Franco said fuel in the plane caused a "very extensive fire" that spread rapidly.

"It was very intensely burning," Franco told CNN. "The fires were coming from every window of that third floor."

-- CNN correspondents Dan Lothian and Kelli Arena contributed to this report.


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