Several people on the ground scrambled to safety after a small plane crashed and exploded between two houses in Las Vegas on Thursday. The only occupant of the plane, the pilot, was killed instantly.
"People started calling us on 9-1-1, saying that they could see flames from the plane about three miles from the airport" said Tim Szymanski, Fire - Public Information Officer for Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. "Just over a mile away, witnesses said the plane was very low and it was leaving a trail of thick black smoke."
The plane, a twin engine Piper Navajo, struck some wires "and catapulted down." The three power lines, each carrying 7,200 volts, caused the plane to cart wheel over a car in front of the homes and hit the ground between them.
Both homes were occupied when the crash occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m.
In the home at 2828 N. Jones Blvd. "a father and his teenage daughter were discussing the utility bill when the power went out. Then, they heard a boom and ran outside to see an intense fire raging." Szymanski said. adding that they fled up the street on foot.
Next door at 2832, they also heard a loud "thud" and found the side yard fully engulfed. The three adults and two children evacuated. One woman was transported for smoke inhalation.
None of the occupants knew what had happened and were unaware that the plane dropped in their yards.
As fire crews were responding, a construction crew opened the front turret on its water tender to contain the fire.
"We used several 1 3/4-inch handlines, with pre-piped foam" to knock the fire down," Szymanski said. A fire department tanker carrying 300 gallons of foam was initially dispatched and supplied the units on scene."
Szymanski said it was a very intense fire, and that crews reported seeing it from all across Las Vegas Valley.
The fire, which went to three alarms, was knocked in 20 minutes.
"There was so little left of the plane. All that we found was the two engines and nothing else was left because of the intense flames."
The home at 2382 suffered moderate damage to the exterior, but Szymanski expects those occupants to return home shortly. The other home was destroyed by the fire.
Crews searched the rubble for several hours. At approximately 6 p.m., they found the pilot's remains in the plane.
Responding emergency crews faced traffic problems as they neared the scene. "The wires that the plane took down knocked out the traffic signals. It took a little extra time to navigate the units to the scene."
This was the second crash involving a plane that was leaving North Las Vegas Airport in a week.
Last Friday, an experimental plane was in the air for less then a mile when it barreled down into a house. The pilot and two residents of the home were killed and the home was consumed by fire.