WATSONVILLE, CALIFORNIA (AP) – Two small planes collided in Northern California while trying to land at a local airport on Thursday and at least two of the three occupants were killed, officials said.
The planes crashed at Watsonville Municipal Airport shortly before 3pm, according to a tweet from the city of Watsonville.
The city-owned airport does not have a control tower to direct aircraft landing and taking off.
There were two people aboard a twin-engine Cessna 340 and only the pilot aboard a single-engine Cessna 152 during the crash, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Officials said multiple fatalities were reported but it was not immediately clear whether anyone survived. The pilots were on their final approaches to the airport before the collision, the FAA said in a statement.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, which did not immediately have additional details, are investigating the crash. No one on the ground was injured.
The 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.
Watsonville, near the Monterey Bay, is about 160 kilometres south of San Francisco.
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. A photo from the city of Watsonville showed damage to a small building at the airport, with firefighters on the scene.
The planes were about 61 metres in the air when they crashed, a witness told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Franky Herrera was driving past the airport when he saw the twin-engine plane bank hard to the right and hit the wing of the smaller aircraft, which “just spiralled down and crashed” near the edge of the airfield and not far from homes, he told the newspaper.
The twin-engine aircraft kept flying but “it was struggling”, Herrera said, and then he saw flames at the other side of the airport.
The manager of the Watsonville Municipal Airport was unavailable for a phone interview in the hours after the crash.
The airport accounts for about 40 per cent of all general aviation activities in the Monterey Bay area, according to the City of Watsonville’s website.
The Watsonville Police Department referred calls to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, where a dispatcher had no information.