(CNN) — Authorities want to know why a twin-engine plane broke up in the sky and slammed into a Southern California house on Sunday, killing five people.
The plane’s flaming wreckage injured three other people, damaged houses, and left debris over four blocks in the stunned community in Yorba Linda, about 33 miles south of Los Angeles, authorities and affiliate reports said.
People in the house were there for a Super Bowl party, witness told CNN affiliate KABC.
Witnesses said they felt shaking and heard loud noises when the plane hurtled to the ground, according to affiliate reports.
A neighbor told KTLA he saw the plane blow up about 100 feet off the ground.
“It’s raining plane parts from the sky,” Jared Bocachica said. “The plane didn’t hit and scatter. It blew up and hit the house.”
Witnesses told KABC that “they saw people escaping that home, screaming for family members they couldn’t find.”
The crash killed the male pilot, plus two males and two females in the single-family home, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
The Orange County Fire Authority said the “debris ignited a massive inferno at one home, quickly engulfing the two-story structure before spreading to a second home,” KTLA reported. The station said video on social media captured images of “panicked residents rushing about the street.”
Tony Tomminelli, a neighbor quoted by KABC, said he saw “debris flying everywhere. Part of a plane, which I guess eventually was the motor, flew down into the garage like a torpedo — just hit the garage and blew up.”
The Orange County Coroner’s office was working to identify the victims. Three people were injured, including two hospitalized with burn injuries and the firefighter treated for minor injuries, KTLA reported. The county fire authority tweeted images of a heavily damaged home in a residential neighborhood.
Glenknoll Elementary School was designated as the command center for responding agencies and was closed Monday, principal David Cammarato said in a news release.
“A district facilities team will be walking our campus checking for possible debris, including rooftops and play areas,” he said.
‘Main cabin’ found in backyard of a house
The 1981 Cessna 414A had just departed about 1:35 p.m. from nearby Fullerton Municipal Airport, according to Eliott Simpson, a National Transportation Safety Board aviation accident investigator.
He told reporters Sunday that, according to preliminary radar data, the plane made a left turn, climbing to 7,800 feet, and went 10 miles out before making a “rapid descent” into the neighborhood. He said that, based on video he’d seen and the debris field, the plane appeared to have broken up in the air.
“The main cabin of the airplane, along with one of the engines, came to rest at the bottom of a ravine in the backyard of somebody’s house,” he said. “During the impact sequence, one house caught fire and that’s where we have the four fatalities.”
Four or five houses were damaged by debris, he said.
A preliminary report will be ready within two weeks, and a final report in 12 to 18 months with a determination of probable cause, he said.