FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Two people were killed after a small plane crashed through the roof of an industrial building in Fort Lauderdale that contained a therapy center for autistic children, sparking a fire.
Fort Lauderdale Police and Fire Rescue responded to the scene near Northwest 62nd Street and West Cypress Creek Road, just after 1:30 p.m., Saturday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna 335 aircraft plunged into the warehouse building after departing from Runway 9 at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
Witness David Devine said that when he saw the aircraft’s altitude, he knew something was wrong.
“It kind of went right by me. It was really low, going down at an angle towards the ground,” he said.
Witness Gerard Houle said he also saw the Cessna 335.
“I saw the airplane pass just over me, and the engine went, ‘bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum,’ and after, I see black smoke,” he said.
“It started trying to get its wings straight, heard three pops of the engine, and then I just waited to hear the bang,” said Devine.
Officials said the pilot and a passenger in the Cessna 335 were killed.
Cellphone video captured firefighters as they worked to put out flames.
The structure is home to several warehouses and several other businesses, including the Positive Behavior Supports Corporation, a therapy facility for children on the autism spectrum.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Steven Gollan said eight staff workers and six children were in the building at the time of the crash.
“They came down, and they were trying to get the kids out as fast as they could,” said Positive Behavior Supports Corporation spokesperson Claudia Axelrod.
Staffers were able remove the children to a safe location.
Video recorded from inside the building showed extensive damage, along with the ceiling caved in.
“The wing actually hit the building and that’s when it exploded,” said Axelrod.
Outside of the building, the Cessna was reduced to a ball of melted and mangled metal.
One of the teachers at the center suffered minor injuries, but she was not hospitalized. No one else inside the businesses or nearby warehouses was hurt.
While the investigation continues, officials with Positive Behavior Supports offered their condolences to the families of the victims and were thankful everyone at the facility made it out.
“We are very, very blessed that the staff followed protocol and they were able to get everybody, including themselves, to safety,” said Axelrod.
The flight was reportedly headed to Hilliard Airpark in Hilliard, Fla.
The National Transportation Safety Board will return to the scene to continue investigating.
The victims’ family from out-of-state is in contact with officials.
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