Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sgt. John Sheahan said two males and two females were aboard the single-engine Piper Cherokee when it crashed on Clover Field Court in Henderson, just south of Las Vegas.
Sheahan said it was a miracle no one on the ground was injured.
"I think we can attribute that to the pilot trying to put it down in a safe place," he said. "You're talking the plane crashed maybe 20 or 30 feet (from the nearest home)."
He said the debris field is a block long, and that one of the wings struck a retaining wall at a residence. The main body of the fuselage came to rest in the street.
The injured were taken University Medical Center with life-threatening burns and trauma. Hospital spokeswoman Danita Cohen said two were listed in serious condition and one in critical condition.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the plane took off from Henderson Executive Airport shortly after 8 a.m. and was unable to gain altitude. The pilot tried to return to Henderson but crashed about two miles northwest of the airport.