Three people were killed and five others injured when a small private aircraft crashed into homes in the western Tokyo suburb of Chofu on Sunday, police said.
Aerial images showed a scene of devastation after a fire ripped through adjacent buildings. Three of the plane’s occupants survived.
The single-engine Piper PA-46 propeller aircraft came down in a residential neighborhood at around 11 a.m., shortly after it took off from nearby Chofu Airfield. A 36-year-old pilot was at the controls and the plane was carrying four passengers.
Nippon Aerotech Co., a firm that serviced the plane, identified the pilot as Taishi Kawamura. The identities of the other victims remained unconfirmed on Sunday evening.
The Tokyo Fire Department reported that the fire damaged or destroyed nine houses and two cars.
Two men aboard the plane and a woman in one of the houses were killed, while three other men from the aircraft and two other women on the ground sustained injuries and were taken to the hospital, police said.
“First, I thought a large truck had crashed into a neighboring house as I heard a rumbling noise. I then saw thick smoke,” said a female witness.
Public broadcaster NHK showed aerial video of gutted buildings and only the plane’s tail section still recognizable, lying upside down in the wreckage. The footage showed firefighters battling fires and trying to rescue survivors.
The crash also damaged the roofs of nearby houses, according to a spokesman at the Tokyo Fire Department.
The area where the plane went down is about 20 kilometers west of central Tokyo and located just southeast of Chofu Airfield. With an 800-meter-long runway, the airport mainly serves small propeller aircraft.
The crash site is sandwiched between the airstrip and the Chuo Expressway, with a soccer stadium and a junior high school nearby.
“I saw the plane take off but didn’t see it crash,” a woman who lives in the neighborhood said. “Immediately, though, I heard a loud boom and saw smoke rising.”
The plane was on a training flight from the airfield to Izu Oshima Island, roughly 100 kilometers to the south, according to the transport ministry and police. Police launched an investigation into possible professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries, while the Japan Transport Safety Board, the investigative arm of the transport ministry, sent three investigators to the scene.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government requested users of private planes at Chofu Airfield not to fly until the cause of the crash is known.
The weather at the time of the accident was clear and sunny, according to the Meteorological Agency.
Nippon Aerotech President Junji Koyama said there were no problems during the plane’s maintenance.
“I’m convinced there was nothing wrong with the plane,” he said, adding that the aircraft last flew on July 22 and had no apparent problems.
Teenagers who were playing football nearby at the time of the crash said the plane was making an abnormal sound and appeared to be flying too low compared with other aircraft.
One of them said the plane was tilting to the left and shaking. He heard a loud bang shortly afterward.
A woman who lives nearby said there were screams and shouts from the crash site and fire spread quickly.
Local resident Haruo Arakawa, 62, said he saw three men covered in soot pulled from the wreckage of the plane and carried to the garden of a nearby house.
As residents attended to them, only one of the men appeared able to talk, he said.
Culled from Japan Times.