A SMALL PLANE sputtered and crashed in flames into a shopping centre on Monday evening, injuring at least five people and sending frightened shoppers running, authorities and reports said.
Several people in a shopping centre dialled emergency services around 7.20pm to report the plane had plunged into the complex, the sheriff's office said. The callers described seeing the plane sputtering just before it plunged and hit the building.
The sheriff's office said a pilot and a passenger from the plane were airlifted to a local hospital. Orlando Regional Medical Center spokesman Gerardo Morales said that two people had been airlifted from the crash site for treatment but he wouldn't elaborate on their injuries or identify them further.
Emergency workers reported at least five people in all had been injured, two of them with burns, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
A photographer for the newspaper who went to the shopping centre soon afterward said the plane appeared to have crashed into the roof.
Marleny Arevalo, a manager at a nearby fast food restaurant, said she didn't hear or see the crash but customers entering the outlet reacted with shock moments afterward.
"They said, "Something's burning!" she said.
Ms Arevalo said she quickly ran with another employee to the shopping centre and saw flames in the air that appeared to be shooting from the back of the supermarket.
"There was a lot of smoke. When I first saw it, there was fire in the air and then it was just a lot of black smoke," she said, adding she tried to go behind the complex near the back of the supermarket but fire officials blocked off the area and even some surrounding roads for a time.
Roth Peeler, who lives about 300ft behind the store, told the Orlando Sentinel he saw the plane go down.
"A small single-engine, yellow plane spiralled right down and through the roof and just exploded," Mr Peeler said. "Not a piece of the plane came out. It's all in the store.
"I went around the front and saw people running out of the store and trying to get into their cars and out of the parking lot."
Deland is about 20 miles west of Daytona Beach and the shopping centre is not far from the Deland Municipal Airport.
A dark column of smoke could be seen wafting from the rooftop of the shopping centre in news photographs. About 20 fire trucks at one point crowded about the complex and firefighters atop a truck's extension ladder poured streams of water on the flames.
Deland Fire authorities did not immediately respond to calls for comment.