Police say five people are dead after a light plane crashed into a shopping centre next to Essendon airport in Melbourne just after 9am on Tuesday morning.
The plane experienced a "catastrophic engine failure" shortly after take-off from Essendon and crashed into the DFO shopping complex, assistant commissioner of Victoria police Stephen Leane said. It is understood the charter flight was on its way to King Island in Tasmania.
"There were five people on the aircraft and at this stage it looks like no-one has survived the crash," Leane said. There were no fatalities other than those on the aircraft, he said.
The plane clipped the back of a JB Hi-Fi store and crash-landed near the Spotlight outlet, witnesses told the Seven Network.
The pilot was identified as Max Quartermain, co-owner of Corporate & Leisure Aviation, ABC and News Corp reported on Tuesday afternoon.
The company's website states Quartermain has been flying for almost four decades and had an "impeccable safety record".
Two victims from the United States have been identified as Greg De Haven and Russell Munsch.
Both men are from Texas in the United states, the Herald Sun has reported.
De Haven's sister Denelle Wicht said her brother had died on the charter flight with two of his friends "flying to another island to play gold", in a status posted on Facebook.
De Haven, 70, was said to be a retired FBI agent, and Munsch was reportedly a founding partner of Munsch Hardt law firm.
Witnesses reported seeing an "explosion" at the scene, and a number of people filmed plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.
Victoria’s emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley confirmed the crash had caused an extensive fire at the DFO centre, but said firefighters had managed to contain it.
“This was a very intense, a very nasty fire, a very complex and unpredictable fire,” Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said.
Andrews said the crash was the worst civil aviation accident in the state for three decades.
He was unable to confirm the identities or nationalities of those on board the plane: "That is about fundamentally supporting family members; to get to them and support them first."
Earlier, Victoria police superintendent Mick Frewen told reporters the plane "called in a mayday" shortly after take-off.
"It took a slight degree of altitude, before crashing into the back of the DFO," he said.
Police said there were signs the pilot was trying to turn back to the airport when the plane crashed.
DFO released a statement on Facebook saying the centre was not open at the time of the crash.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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