At least one person was killed Saturday evening when a small plane crashed in a vacant lot in Victoria, causing a fire at a nearby house, according to authorities.
The Mooney M20M aircraft went down about 5:45 p.m. near Hwy. 5 and County Road 11 in a crash that shook houses and sent neighbors and people at nearby businesses racing outside to see what had happened. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was headed from the Alexandria, Minn., airport to the Flying Cloud airport in Eden Prairie.
As dusk fell, scores of first responders from multiple agencies, including the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, were at the scene. Hwy. 5 was to be closed overnight between Stieger Lake Lane and Victoria Drive.
At a brief news conference late Saturday, Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud said there were "multiple victims" and "no survivors" from the plane, but declined to say how many may have died. He said at least two sites where plane debris fell will need further investigation when daylight returns. The aircraft can carry up to four people.
At least part of the plane struck a house in the 7900 block of Rose Street, causing a fire that witnesses quickly extinguished. The people who were in that home at the time were not hurt, Kamerud said.
"It was a tragic situation and our hearts and prayers go out to the family and all the loved ones of those involved," Victoria Mayor Deb McMillan said at the news conference.
A neighbor who ran to the scene just after the crash said he saw the remains of the pilot in the vacant lot. He saw no signs of any other victims at that site, he said.
The neighbor, who asked not to be named, said he was in his bedroom when he heard a loud thud that shook his house. When he looked next door, "the entire front yard was on fire," he said.
He rushed out with a hose to help put out the blaze and came upon the remains of a victim he believed to be the pilot, he said.
Also running to the scene were people from nearby Floyd's Bar, who were carrying fire extinguishers.
Levi Pemberton, a cashier at a Holiday station across the street from the house, said he heard a "pop" and turned around and saw a "huge explosion and a big fire."
He ran to the crash site and saw charred metal plane parts, including one large piece that looked like a tail sticking up.
"The fire was big enough to scorch the house," he said.
Another Holiday employee was among the people to rush to the scene with fire extinguishers, and the group was able to put out the fire quickly before first responders arrived.
Pemberton said the scene was "very scary."
Amy Jensen, who lives two blocks south of the crash site, said she heard a "thud-thud" as the plane went over her house, then all fell quiet, so she knew something was wrong. Outside, she saw three pieces of the plane scattered over several yards.
Terrible as it was, "if there had to be a plane crash, this was a best-case scenario," she said, adding that Victoria "was full of people" Saturday and restaurants and bars in the area were packed.
One of those people was Floyd Nagler, 71, who was on the nearby patio at Floyd's with two fellow Vietnam War veterans to celebrate his wife's birthday when they heard the sound of a revving engine and looked up to see the plane arcing down. A wing was folded back, he said, and the aircraft then "augured into the ground."
He said he knew there was no hope for the pilot.
"You kind of recognize when things are coming to an end," he said. "Then you just see what you can do to help."
He grabbed a hose and sprayed water on the house.
"It was quite the sight," Nagler said.