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(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — The pilot of a small plane that crashed into a parking lot near Fort Lauderdale airport Friday may have been trying to save lives when it started having some kind of mechanical difficulty shortly after takeoff.

The Piper Cheyenne 2 twin-engine turboprop reportedly was departing Executive Airport after 4 p.m. for a local flight when it banked to the right and crashed into parked vehicles.

“It appears as though the plane did try to circle back and land at the airport. Unfortunately, ultimately it was unsuccessful and ended up crashing in a parking lot,” Shannon Vezina, spokesperson for the city of Fort Lauderdale, said Friday. She added that the plane’s pilot did not attempt to make any distress calls.

“The damage could have been worse had they not attempted to land in the parking lot,” she added Friday.
All three people on board are believed to be dead, but there were no injuries on the ground.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and were seen climbing through the wreckage.  Witnesses described the fire that spread from the crash as “horrific.” Flames engulfed the cars surrounding the wrecked aircraft.

“One plane went down so quickly and the explosion and the fire immediately proceeding,” one witness said. “It was pretty horrific.”

There are about 1,500 general aviation crashes every year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, killing nearly 475 pilots and passengers.

Earlier this week, the board held a meeting on improving general aviation safety, saying it remained on the NTSB’s most-wanted list.

Deborah Hersman, the board’s chairwoman, said that general aviation pilots were “airlines of one.”

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