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Six killed when small plane crashes, bursts into flames in California

MURRIETA, CALIFORNIA (AP) – Six people were killed when a small plane crashed in a field and burst into flames during the second of two landing attempts in fog just before dawn on Saturday at a southern California airport, authorities said.

The crash of the Cessna C550 business jet occurred around 4.15 am in Murrieta, about 130 kilometres southeast of Los Angeles, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

It took firefighters more than an hour to extinguish the flames, which charred about an acre of vegetation at the edge of French Valley Airport, said the Riverside County Fire Department.

The jet, which can seat up to 13 people, crashed about 150 metres short of the intended runway, said an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Elliott Simpson.

“Most of the airplane, with the exception of the tail, was consumed by fire,” Simpson told reporters at an afternoon briefing. Investigators were combing through a debris field about 60 metres long, he said. All six people on board died at the scene, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The victims, all adults, were not immediately identified.

The plane, which had departed from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas for the 45-minute flight to Murietta, crashed during its second approach, the NTSB said.

The pilot was cleared for a landing using only instruments because of limited visibility from the low cloud ceiling, Simpson said.

“The visibility and ceilings allowed for a landing, but it was right on the minimums” of the regulations set for that airport, he said.

Investigators will review recordings between the pilot and air traffic control.

A preliminary report was expected in about two weeks, the NTSB said. The FAA’s aircraft tracking database lists the jet as owned by Prestige Worldwide Flights LLC of Imperial, California.