Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Tim Stelloh, Alex Johnson and Kevin Cox

LOS ANGELES — Five people were killed when a small airplane crashed into a single-family home near Anaheim, California, on Sunday, authorities said.

The male pilot, who was the only person in the twin-engine plane, and four people in the house that caught fire died, Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Cory Martino said at a news conference Sunday night. The people in the home who died were two males and two females, he said.

The coroner was in the process of identifying the victims and authorities would then notify their relatives, he said. Their names were not yet released.

Two other people were treated for what he described as "moderate" injuries.

The plane, a small Cessna, crashed into the home in Yorba Linda at about 1:45 p.m. shortly after takeoff, Martino said.

Elliot Simpson, an aviation accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the plane took off from nearby Fullerton at about 1:35 p.m. It climbed to about 7,800 feet and then "began a rapid descent," he said.

The airplane appeared to break up in the latter stages of the flight, he said.

Simpson said there was no report that the pilot made any distress calls before the crash.

Firefighters at the scene of a small plane crash that crashed in a residential area of Yorba Linda, California, on Sunday.Orange County Fire Authority

Debris from the crash was scattered across a four block area, with the main cabin of the airplane and one of the engines resting at the bottom of a ravine in the backyard of somebody's house, said Simpson.

Colette Craig of Anaheim was driving toward Corona on the 91 Freeway when she saw the plane — which she said was about three miles away — "burst into flames."

Another witness, Brittany Drake, said she initially thought the "giant ball of fire" might be Super Bowl-related.

"But it was way too big," said Drake, who was on the freeway en route to a family Super Bowl party. The crash took only a few seconds, she said, but it was clear that something was very wrong with the plane.

"It went straight down," she said. "It wasn't continually trying to fly. It was very obvious the plane was gone."

Residents in the suburban neighborhood where the aircraft fell to the ground described hearing a high-pitched whine — a sound that a neighbor, Lee Davis, thought belonged to a Ferrari or a Lamborghini screeching and crashing into his home.

"I thought it would actually be wrapped around my wall, because when I was getting up, I saw stuff landing in the pool," he said. "But then when I came outside the door, my neighbor said, 'Watch out — there's still stuff coming from the sky.'"

Andrew Blankstein and Suzanne Ciechalski contributed.