An Australian pilot and four American tourists on a golfing vacation were killed when a light plane crashed in flames into a shopping mall on Tuesday shortly after takeoff in Melbourne, police say. The five were on a twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air that crashed about 45 minutes before the Direct Factory Outlets mall in suburban Essendon was to open, a police minister says. The US Embassy in Canberra confirmed that four victims were US citizens, the AP reports. Texans Greg Reynolds De Haven and Russell Munsch have been identified by their families on social media as two of the victims.
The plane had taken off from Melbourne's second-biggest airport at Essendon for a golfing trip to King Island, 160 miles to the south, officials say. The mall adjoins the airport. Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane says no one outside the plane was injured. "Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt," Leane says. The pilot, identified as Max Quartermain, owner of the charter company Corporate and Leisure Travel, reported a "catastrophic engine failure" moments before the plane crashed into a storage area at the rear of the mall, police say. (Read more plane crash stories.)