Two people were killed late Thursday morning when a small plane crashed near a busy Ocala shopping center.
Police officers and firefighters scrambled to the crash scene in the area of SW College Road between 60th Avenue and 43rd Avenue near Market Street at Heath Brook. The plane appeared to have come down on SW College Road and then slid across the lanes of traffic before slamming into a large pole and bursting into flames.
All lanes of SW College Roads were closed and police were advising motorists to steer clear of the area. Witnesses at the scene quickly reported seeing what appeared to be a large gas or oil spill and burned wreckage nearby.
Shortly after the crash, smoke could be seen rising above stores at Market Street at Health Brook. A heavily damaged tan SUV with a smashed windshield and its driver’s door hanging open was sitting sideways on SW College Road near the burned wreckage of the plane. A crowd of onlookers formed in the parking lot of a nearby Mimi’s Cafe at 4414 SW College Rd.
Early Thursday afternoon, the cockpit area of the plane was covered by a large pink tarp or blanket. The names of those killed in the crash were being withheld pending notification of next of kin and there was no information available on the occupants of the damaged SUV.
One witness reported on the Ocala Police Department’s Facebook page that it was a two-seat plane that turned on its side and exploded when it hit the ground. Another said she had just driven through the area and it was a “disaster.” And a third person reported hearing the crash and saying it sounded like a bomb exploded.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were en route to the crash scene early Thursday afternoon.