WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A small plane lost power after takeoff and crashed into a building Thursday while trying to return to a Kansas airport, killing two people inside the building and injuring at least four others, officials said.
Only the pilot was on the plane, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many people were in the building at the time of the crash at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, Fire Chief Ronald D. Blackwell said. He said both people confirmed dead were found inside the building and five people were unaccounted for.
“We may find more, but right now we don’t know,” Blackwell said.
One person was in critical condition at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, and three others were in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Roz Hutchinson said.
The crash sent towering plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles across Wichita. The plane crashed into a building operated by FlightSafety International, which uses the facility to train pilots to fly Cessna planes, company spokesman Steve Phillips said.
The plane appeared to strike the top of the building and set it on fire. Fire and smoke from the wreckage were contained by 10:30 a.m.
“It was horrific. There was heavy smoke on the horizon as you approached the airport for miles,” Blackwell said. “It was a very challenging fire, as you might imagine.”
Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is used by private aircraft and served by several airlines and their regional affiliates, including American, Southwest, Delta, United and Allegiant. According to U.S. Department of Transportation figures, there were more than 13,000 departures and about 1.4 million passengers in 2013. It is several miles west of downtown Wichita, where aircraft manufacturing has long been an important part of the economy.
The crash did not appear to immediately affect passengers coming in and out of the airport, and at least one plane was seen departing shortly after the crash.