Five people have been killed in Essendon, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, when a light aircraft crashed into the Direct Factory Outlets (DFO) shopping mall and burst into flames at around 9am local time. Fortunately, the mall wasn’t open for business at the time.
The charter flight was carrying four American passengers en route to King Island for a once in a lifetime golfing holiday. According to sources, the plane took off and reached an elevation of approximately 100 feet before veering left and crashing into the mall. Investigators suspect catastrophic engine failure as the cause of the crash, although this is yet to be confirmed. It is believed that the pilot made two mayday calls shortly after taking off.
Although details are still coming out about the crash, a witness, Ross Barker, told Melbourne’s Channel 9 that he saw the plane clip the mall’s roof, cartwheel and then smash through the building’s southern wall. The wreckage eventually landed in the loading bay of the mall and burst into flames, a fire that took 56 firefighters 90 minutes to control, before being extinguished at around 10:30am local time.
The charter flight business was owned by Corporate and Leisure Aviation, based at Essendon Airport and owned by Max and Cilla Quartermain. Mr Quartermain was the holder and operator of an Air Operations Certificate for more than 38 years and had an “impeccable safety record,” however, it is still unknown if he was at the controls of this particular flight.
Although it has been established that all four passengers on the flight were American citizens, only two identities have been confirmed thus far; Greg De Haven, 70, a retired FBI agent, and Russell Munsch, a founding partner of Munsch Hardt law firm, both from Texas. The crash is the worst air disaster in the state of Victoria in 30 years, however concerns had previously been raised about the height of the buildings surrounding Essendon Airport.
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) February 20, 2017
Although nobody inside the building was injured, several people were treated at the scene for shock. DFO Essendon will remain closed indefinitely.