Plane crashes into Tokyo suburb

The small plane crashed in the residential district of Chofu, near a school, sports stadium and shopping plaza. Local media said its passengers may have been pilots-in-training.
The small plane crashed in the residential district of Chofu, near a school, sports stadium and shopping plaza. Local media said its passengers may have been pilots-in-training.PHOTO: REUTERS

Three killed; homes and cars set ablaze in accident that happened just after take-off

TOKYO • Three people were killed yesterday when a small plane crashed into a Tokyo suburb shortly after take-off, leaving nearby homes and cars ablaze and the charred remains of the fuselage lying in a burnt-out residence.

The Piper PA-46 single-engine propeller aircraft with a 36-year- old pilot and four passengers on board crashed at about 11am, shortly after leaving Chofu Airport, on the outskirts of Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK reported.

A spokesman for Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department said: "Two people from the airplane are confirmed dead and one, believed to be a local resident, has died. Three people from the airplane and two others on the ground were injured. Their condition is unknown."

Local media reports said earlier that two men, including the pilot, and a woman on the ground were killed in the fiery crash.

At least three houses and two cars were on fire in the residential district of Chofu, just some 500m from the airport.

FEROCIOUS SMOKE

At first I thought a large truck had crashed into a neighbouring house as I felt the ground shake, and then I saw this ferocious smoke.

A FEMALE WITNESS

The crash also damaged the roofs of other houses nearby, while the fuselage was left upside-down in the charred remains of a home.

A female witness said: "At first I thought a large truck had crashed into a neighbouring house as I felt the ground shake, and then I saw this ferocious smoke."

Television footage showed firefighters battling the blaze. The plane came down in an area near a school, sports stadium and shopping plaza. The plane was bound for Izu Oshima Island in the Pacific Ocean, about 100km south of central Tokyo, for a one-day training flight, local media said.

An official at Nippon Aerotech, which owns the plane, apologised for the crash and told reporters that the cause of the accident was being investigated. The passengers may have been pilots-in-training, according to local media.

Police are investigating the accident on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death, reports said. The airport, run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, remains closed following the accident.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'Plane crashes into Tokyo suburb'. Print Edition | Subscribe