3 killed in fiery small-plane crash at mobile home park in Clearwater, Florida, officials say

A preliminary report published Friday morning shows three people were killed Thursday evening in a fiery crash when a small plane smashed into a mobile home park in Clearwater, Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s report lists three fatalities, one among the flight crew and two people inside the home. The crash happened at 7:27 p.m. ET on Thursday.

The FAA notes the “aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances into a mobile home park,” and reports there was a “post crash fire.”

The only occupant in the plane was the pilot, the FAA said.

At least nine people were inside the mobile home earlier Thursday night, but only two remained at the time of the crash, the Clearwater Fire and Rescue Department said in a news release.

Firefighters responded to the crash site at the Bayside Waters mobile home park, Fire Chief Scott Ehlers said Thursday during a news briefing. They found four trailer homes on fire – one of which had the crashed plane inside, Ehlers said.

The plane was found “predominantly” in one mobile home, the fire chief said Thursday. Crews were still trying to tame hot spots and reach the bodies of those who died, Ehlers added.

“Our thoughts are with the three victims and their families; this tragedy could have been even worse,” Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy said.

Clearwater resident Steven Ascari told CNN he heard what sounded like an explosion Thursday evening that shook his apartment.

“And next thing you know, a giant pillar of smoke was seen,” he said in a message.

As officials received a call about a fire at the mobile home park, there was a report at the same time of a plane experiencing an emergency at an airport, Ehlers said Thursday. The plane ultimately went off radar about 3 miles north of a runway, the same location as the mobile home park.

The aircraft, a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza V35, crashed into the residential area after the pilot reported an engine failure, an FAA spokesperson told CNN. The plane had taken off earlier on Thursday from Vero Beach, officials said.

Smoke rises from a fire after a plane crash in Clearwater, Florida, on Thursday. - Christopher Crerar
Smoke rises from a fire after a plane crash in Clearwater, Florida, on Thursday. - Christopher Crerar

Audio from LiveATC.net recorded the pilot saying shortly before the crash, “I’m losing engine.”

Unidentified pilots on air traffic control communication feeds are then heard saying, “They just hit the ground really hard with the plane,” and “They’re in flames.” Another is heard to say, “It looks like they went into a house.”

A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report says in part, “According to two individuals who were at CLW, the pilot broadcast on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) that he could not find the airport and asked them to turn on the runway lights which were already on from an airplane that had just landed. They also stated that after the pilot requested a second time to turn the runway lights on, the pilot-controlled runway lighting was changed to the highest intensity. Both individuals then heard the pilot announce had a ‘fire.’”

The other mobile homes that were ablaze have been cleared, and there were no victims there, the fire chief said Thursday night.

Clearwater, home to more than 110,000 people, is about 23 miles west of Tampa on Florida’s central west coast.

CNN’s Leah Thomeer, Cara Lynn Clarkson, Sara Smart and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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