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Four Americans Killed as Plane Crashes Into Australian Shopping Mall

Witnesses described the plane exploding on impact and erupting into a "massive fireball."
Image: Twin-engined Beechcraft plane crashed into a shopping centre just after take-off from Essendon Fields airport near Melbourne
A twin-engine Beechcraft plane crashes into a shopping center just after takeoff Monday from Essendon Fields airport near Melbourne, Australia.Jordan Fouracre / AFP - Getty Images

Four Americans were among five people killed when a light plane crashed into the roof of a mall in Australia, the State Department has confirmed.

The twin-turboprop Beechcraft King Air plane struck the shopping center near the end of the runway at Essendon Airport in Melbourne shortly after takeoff at around 5 p.m. ET Monday (9 a.m. local time), authorities said.

Witnesses described the plane exploding on impact and erupting into a "massive fireball."

There were no fatalities other than those on board the aircraft, police said. The incident happened about an hour before the mall was due to open, according to police.

"There were five people on the airplane and it looks like nobody's survived the crash," Stephen Leane, the assistant police commissioner for Victoria state, told reporters.

Leane said the plane hit the building before crashing into the mall's parking lot. He described the aircraft as suffering "catastrophic" engine failure, but officials said it was too early to say what caused the accident.

Local media reported the pilot was an experienced aviator aged in his 60s. The State Department did not identify the four Americans, who were passengers on the plane.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who died in today's tragic crash," a State Department official told NBC News. "The U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Melbourne are working closely with local authorities. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance to the families of the victims."

Video footage showed burning wreckage strewn across the mall's parking lot and a thick column of black smoke rising from the crash site.

A witness told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was in a taxi when he saw the plane coming in "way, way fast."

"It looked like it hit the building. There was a massive fireball. I could feel the heat through the window," the man, identified only as Jason, said. "Then a wheel, it looked like a plane wheel, bounced on the road."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate the crash.