A small plane hit a truck on the runway during take-off, caught fire and crashed into woods near a coastal Maine airport, killing three people, authorities have said.
The Cessna 172 was heading north on the runway at Owls Head when it struck a pick-up truck that was crossing the runway, authorities said. The plane continued to climb and as it turned to the east, it spiralled downwards into woods and immediately burst into flames, according to the Knox County sheriff's office.
With flames shooting 10 to 20ft in the air and smoke billowing into the sky, the first people to the scene tried unsuccessfully to pull one of the three occupants from the burning wreckage, said John Newcomb, president of the Downeast Air airline services company, who was among those who tried to help.
Airport manager Jeff Northgraves said the truck was authorised to be on the airport grounds and was driven by a pilot. He would not identify the driver but said it was not a county vehicle, nor a county employee.
All trucks at the airport are equipped with radios to pick up any traffic from planes, Mr Northgraves said. He said planes are required to radio their positions before, during and after take-off. He said it was not known yet whether the plane that crashed had radioed its actions.