A small plane crashed in a West Los Angeles neighborhood Friday shortly after taking off from , killing one person aboard but causing no injuries to anyone on the ground.
The pilot of the single-engine Cessna 210 radioed the Santa Monica tower at about 6:10 p.m. to declare an emergency and advised he would try to return to the airport, according to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane was registered to a Santa Monica resident. It was unclear where the pilot, whose name was unavailable early Saturday, was traveling, Gregor said.
The four-place, high-wing plane with retractable landing gear crashed in the 2100 block of South Glendon Avenue a short time later, about three miles northeast of the airport. The aircraft broke into several pieces, with the bulk of the wreckage bursting into flames at the base of a palm tree that burned to its trunk.
One person was found dead in the wreckage.
"It was very fortunate that the plane did not hit a house, and that there were no injuries to residents," said Los Angeles Fire Department Assistant Chief Andy Fox.
He said that a firefighter was already on the scene due to an unrelated traffic accident, so crews were able to respond right away and put the fire out quickly.
Guy Cohen was driving by the intersection of South Glendon Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard when "the plane jut blew up in smoke," he said.
He said the plane appeared to be flying in a gradual decline until it hit the tree.
A man who said he was driving in the area shortly before the crash told NBC4 he noticed a small plane flying abnormally low.
"I didn't hear any abnormal engine noise," the man said, adding that he saw no signs of distress in the way the plane was flying, other than the fact is was "extremely" low.
"It was a red flag immediately," he said.
Another witness told the station the plane appeared to clip the top of a dead palm tree and crash to the ground.
The crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"We found some remnants of the wings and the tail section," said Los Angeles Police Department Cmmdr. Bill Scott.
On Aug. 29 of last year, a student pilot broke his leg and injured a man on the ground when he crashed a single-engine Cessna into a home near 21st and Navy in Santa Monica after taking off from .
The accident was the first known to have involved a student pilot directly associated with a Santa Monica-based flight school.