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Small Plane Crashes Into Florida Home

A small plane crashed into a house shortly after taking off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Friday morning, slicing the home down the middle into two charred pieces.

The plane, believed to be a twin-engine Cessna 421, crashed around 11:20 a.m., and the house burst into flames.

Matt Little, a spokesman for Ft. Lauderdale Fire rescue, said it appears the pilot of the plane died in the crash, CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said one person was on board the plane, though she could not confirm the death.

A woman who said she was the wife of the owner of the plane spoke with WFOR. Said she was watching news of the crash on television, and believed her husband was the only person aboard the plane. The woman said her husband was flying the plane to Fernandina Beach in an attempt to sell it.

The owner of the home was not inside when the plane hit, authorities said.

"The house was a total loss," said Broward Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Jachles. "The plane went right into the center of the house."

Rick Cunningham heard a "spitting and sputtering coming from the plane" while he was painting a house down the street. Then, he saw the plane coming in sideways, and it nose-dived into the ground, he said.

Cunningham, 52, ran over to the house and knocked the bedroom windows down to see if there was anyone inside, but after a few minutes he had to leave. "The heat was just too intense," he said.

The plane was headed to Fernandina Beach where airport officials expected it to land around 1 p.m. But after takeoff, something went wrong. Shortly after it got into the air, it reported trouble to the tower, and the tower cleared it to turn around and land, said Chaz Adams, an airport spokesman. Before it could, it crashed.

"I was in my house on my computer and I heard a big pop sound and then a few seconds later I heard a even larger piop kinda boom sound and my lights flickered kind of on and off," witness Anita Jones told WFOR.

She lives in the neighborhood where the plane crashed and she noticed a distinct difference in plane traffic above her neighborhood recently.

"Normally it's just not that big of a problem because the planes fly a little higher over this area. But, within the last month and a half there's been some planes that fly low and it almost appears they are landing on the street they are flying so low. I hold my breath when that happens," Jones said.

Though the fire was quickly controlled, firefighters were trying isolate fuel in the debris, said Oakland Park Fire-Rescue Chief Donald Widing. A utility company also cut power in the area to about 1,645 customers because they were not able to get in to assess damage to power lines.

Local Video from CBS4 in Miami

FAA records list the plane's owner as Sebring Air Charter a message left at a phone number listed on Florida corporate records was not immediately returned.

A spokesman for World Jet East, a service center at Executive Airport, confirmed the plane had been serviced by their company before takeoff, but could provide no other information, reports WFOR.

The crash was at least the fifth involving the airport, which caters to small planes and jets, in the last 12 years.

In 2007, a twin-engine Beechcraft reached about 150 feet after takeoff before the pilot reported he could not maintain altitude and declared a mayday. He crashed onto Interstate 95, but survived.

A DC-3 cargo plane crashed shortly after takeoff into a residential street near the airport in 2005. The pilot, co-pilot and a passenger all survived. The pilot said at the time they chose the street because it was quiet and wide, and has an abundance of tall palm trees he could run into to slow the plane's speed.

In 2004, a Piper Cherokee crashed into the roof of an auto body shop shortly after takeoff, killing two people on the plane and critically injuring a third.

In 1997, a new pilot died when he crashed his Beechcraft Skipper 77 into a tree near the airport just after takeoff.

National Transportation Safety Board records show that Cessna 421s have been involved in 12 fatal accidents since 2004.

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