Multiple fatalities were reported after two planes collided midair and crashed at Watsonville Municipal Airport in Santa Cruz County Thursday afternoon, officials said.
A single-engine Cessna 152 and a twin-engine Cessna 340 collided at about 3 p.m. PST, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
One person was aboard the Cessna 152 and two people were on the Cessna 340, according to the FAA.
"There's multiple fatalities between the two aircrafts," Lt. Patrick Dimick with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office told our affiliate KSBW.
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No one on the ground was hurt at the California airport, the FAA said.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation.
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The Watsonville Municipal Airport has four runways and is home to more than 300 aircraft, according to its website. It handles more than 55,000 operations a year and is used often for recreational planes and agriculture businesses.
Residents in a nearby neighborhood in Watsonville said they heard several loud booms.
"I heard a big crash. It sounded like a car crash," said Watsonville resident Josh Barry. "I was pretty confused."
"I saw in a blink of an eye, another plane there, and they hit each other. And it was almost as if the faster plane had gone right through the smaller plane," said Corralitos resident Cam Primavera.
Photos and videos posted on social media showed the wreckage of one small plane in a grassy field by the airport. One picture showed a plume of smoke visible from a street near the airport.
Aviation expert Mike McCarron said it’s important to note that Watsonville airport, like many smaller airports is an uncontrolled airfield, meaning there’s no control tower.
"The pilots themselves clear the airspace for all their maneuvers," he said.
McCarron also noted that crashes between two aircrafts are extremely rate. One of those two planes came to rest at the edge of the airport, right near a neighborhood
"First, it’s really scary. People died, sad, It's right next to my house, it could have hit any house," Barry said.
The city of Watsonville released the following statement on their Facebook page Thursday evening:
"We are absolutely saddened to hear about the tragic incident that took the lives of several people. The City of Watsonville sends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of those who passed.
“We are grieving tonight from this unexpected and sudden loss,” said City of Watsonville Mayor Ari Parker. “I want to express my deepest and most heartfelt condolences.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating today’s plane crash."
The Associated Press contributed to the report.