A twin-engine plane headed to Atlanta crashed shortly after takeoff Saturday in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing five and injuring six, officials said.
The plane struck a car when it crashed, Lafayette Fire Department spokesman Alton Trahan told NBC News. Multiple people on the ground were injured, authorities said.
"There was small fire involving the plane and one vehicle was fully engulfed," the fire department said in a statement. "Both fires were quickly extinguished. An immediate search and rescue was conducted."
A sports journalist among the dead
Carley McCord, a sports journalist who worked for NBC affiliate WDSU in New Orleans, was among the dead.
The daughter-in-law of Louisiana State University Tigers offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger was one of the six aboard the small eight-passenger plane that went down after taking off from Lafayette Regional Airport.
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Ensminger was in Atlanta on Saturday for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl college football semifinal. The LSU Tigers team, ranked number one in playoff rankings, were playing the Oklahoma Sooners in the game that began at 4 p.m.
The sister of deceased pilot Ian Biggs confirmed to NBC News that the passengers were en route to the LSU game.
“We are devastated by the loss of such an amazing talent and valued member of our WDSU family," said the station's vice president and general manager, Joel Vilmenay. "Carley’s passion for sports journalism and her deep knowledge of Louisiana sports, from High School to the Professional ranks, made her an exceptional journalist. As we reflect on her impressive body of work, we offer our deepest condolences to her family."
The New Orleans Saints described McCord as an "in-game" host for Saints and NBA Pelicans games.
"We are devastated by the sudden death of Carley McCord," the teams' principals said in a statement.
WDSU said McCord was a graduate of Northwestern State University and Louisiana State University and got her first job working as an in-house sideline reporter for the Cleveland Browns.
Other victims included pilot and 15-year-old boy
The others who died in the crash were identified by the Lafayette Police Department as: Biggs, 51, who was the pilot; Robert Vaughan Crisp, 59, the vice president of Global Data Systems; Gretchen Vincent, 51, who graduated from LSU, according to her social media account; and Michael Vincent, 15.
Stephen Wade Berzas, 37, the sixth person on the plane, was hospitalized and remained in critical condition, police said.
Meanwhile, authorities said five other individuals who were on the ground were also injured, but their condition and names could not be confirmed.
Acadian Ambulance said it transported to hospitals one plane crash survivor and three people who were on the ground when the aircraft went down. The plane crash survivor and one of the bystanders sustained "severe burns," a spokesman for Acadian said.
Patricia Thompson, director of communications at Lafayette General Medical Center, said the hospital had received one female patient from the crash site. The woman, whom Thompson said she believed was the bystander, was in critical condition and transferred to the burn unit at the University Medical Center New Orleans.
Two people on the ground were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, Lafayette Fire Department Chief Robert P. Benoit told reporters Saturday afternoon.
Witnesses saw the plane waver
Dennis Devaney, a local resident, said he was sitting on his porch with his dog when he heard the plane fly over his home at only 50 or 60 feet above the ground.
He said the wings appeared to remain level, but the plane was rising and falling and "the engines were screaming."
“The plane was going up and down like a roller coaster," he said. "It looked like [the pilot] was fighting for control.”
After the plane crashed, Devaney said he drove over to the empty field where it had split into at least three different pieces. At the crash site, he saw one man severely burned.
"There were people helping the guy who got burnt," he said. "You assume he got thrown from the plane because he was a good 100 yards from where it happened. People were trying to help him best they could."
Another nearby resident said the plane hit a power line that caused her home's lights to go out.
Rayvin Silas Chevalier, who said she lives only 500 to 700 feet from the crash site, said she, her husband and daughter were severely startled when their building shook and the lights suddenly went out.
The crash scene was visible from their front door, and Silas Chevalier said her husband rushed out with others to try and help.
"The wing hit our power line, which is what alarmed everyone in the apartment because the apartment complex shook," she said. "The lights completely shut off, and then we heard a loud boom like a crash, and I heard a girl screaming, 'It’s a plane', as she was running away from it.”
“I literally thought the plane was right by my house, and I was looking at my daughter [as if] for the last time because we were about to blow up," Silas Chevalier said.
“A lot of people could have died,” she added.
Police said the plane had not hit any buildings when it crashed to the ground.
Trahan said that representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board had arrived slightly before noon local time.
"We’re securing the scene for the initial response team," he said. "They’re doing their assessment. Once they’re done with their assessment then we’ll know the next steps."
An FAA spokesman said the cause of the crash was still unknown as of early Saturday afternoon, but noted that the plane crashed behind a nearby Walmart in a post office parking lot.
"This morning, a two-engine Piper Cheyenne, after departing from Runway 22L at Lafayette Regional Airport, crashed under unknown circumstances one mile west of the airport into the parking lot of a post office," the spokesman said.