3 dead after plane crashes into car near Houston airport

HOUSTON: A small plane crashed into a car Thursday in a parking lot near a Houston airport, killing three people aboard the aircraft, fire officials said.

Houston Fire Department spokesman Jay Evans said the plane crashed shortly after 1 p.m. into a car that was parked at a hardware store near Hobby Airport in the southeastern part of the city. Fire Capt. Ruy Lozano said officials believe the three people killed in the accident were on the plane.

No one was in the parked car that was hit by the plane, Lozano said.

"It didn't strike the building. No fire. No fuel spill," he said.

Evans said no other injuries were reported. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the cause of the crash, did not immediately release the victims' names. NTSB investigator Tom Latson said it's likely the plane stalled before plummeting to the ground.

The single-engine Cirrus SR-20 aircraft took off from Norman, Oklahoma, around 10:11 a.m. CDT and was trying to land at Hobby Airport when an air traffic controller told the pilot the plane was too high and asked it to go around, said NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson.

During the second attempt to land, the traffic controller determined the plane was still too high and asked it to again go around. Knudson said the plane made a turn to the left and then took a nosedive into the parking lot.

The flight-tracking website FlightAware showed that in the last 15 minutes of its flight, the plane's altitude greatly fluctuated, going from 1,800 feet down to 200 feet and back up to 1,200 feet before crashing.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to have fallen from the sky and dropped to the ground.

"There was a great big loud noise, like a bomb and a real screechy noise. When I looked out I saw the plane in the parking lot," Susan Conklin, who was in her resale shop across the street from the hardware store when the crash occurred, said in a phone interview.

Conklin said that after the crash, she didn't see any movement from inside the plane and people didn't immediately rush to the plane over concern it might explode.

"It was scary," she said.

Television news footage showed the plane narrowly missed hitting a couple of propane tanks in the parking lot.

Latson said it was "remarkable" that the plane didn't hit the propane tanks, the hardware store that was less than 40 feet away from the crash site, other buildings or nearby power lines.

The plane was equipped with an emergency parachute system that is rocket-deployed and would allow an aircraft to safely descend when used.

"Unfortunately, it appears the rocket motor deployed either immediately before or just after impact. The rocket motor did deploy, the parachute did not," Latson said.

Records in the Federal Aviation Administration registry show the plane was registered to Safe Aviation LLC in Moore, Oklahoma, and had been manufactured in 2012. Officials with Safe Aviation could not immediately be reached for comment. A phone listing for the company could not be found.