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The scene of a small plane crash in Bellevue, Tenn.Courtesy William Mix

Four members of the same family were killed aboard a light plane that crashed Monday in Nashville, Tenn., authorities said. The dead included the pilot, who witnesses and fire officials said saved many lives by narrowly avoiding a nearby YMCA building.

The plane, a Gulfstream 690C flying from Great Bend Municipal Airport in Kansas to John C. Tune-Nashville International Airport, went down shortly before 5 p.m. ET just outside the YMCA in Bellevue, a southwest suburban neighborhood of Nashville. Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told NBC News it was carrying four people, according to its flight plan.

All aboard the plane were killed, Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said. No injuries were reported at the YMCA, which was evacuated after the plane slammed into the ground just 20 feet from its wall.

A police statement said confirmation of the identity of the victims was pending, but that all four were believed to be members of the same family.

"While details of the crash are still emerging, the near-miss of our building surely saved dozens of people from harm," the YMCA of Middle Tennessee said in a statement Monday night.

NBC News

Aaron said the plane missed its first approach to the Nashville airport. It was circling back to make a second attempt and was coming in low, he said.

"The crash was very hard," he said. "The impact was very severe into the ground," strewing debris over an 80-yard area.

Three of the bodies had been recovered by late Monday evening, Aaron said, and "I understand that there are body parts [still] here."

As the smoky heap of rubble continued smoldering Monday night, Metro Nashville Fire District Chief George Hickey told reporters that it could have been much, much worse. Witnesses reported seeing the plane bank hard to the right and crash into the ground, he said — near not only the YMCA building but also a retirement home.

"No buildings were hit," Hickey said. "I may be wrong, but I really want to take my hat off to the pilot."

"The pilot did one hell of a job," he said.

Foul play wasn't suspected, Aaron said. Bergen said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.