The tail section of a crashed light plane and burning house are seen after the aircraft went down in a residential area and burst into flames, in Chofu, in the outskirts of Tokyo, in this photo taken by Kyodo yesterday.
A small plane carrying five passengers crashed in a Tokyo suburb yesterday, killing three people and leaving five hospitalised, rescue services reported.
Firefighters battled blazes that engulfed several houses in the middle of a residential area in the town of Chofu, about 20km west of central Tokyo.
Local television showed the house that received the full impact of the crash was burned to the ground.
According to the transport ministry, the single-engine Piper PA-46 took off on a training flight from nearby Chuo airport and shortly afterward crashed into a building in a densely populated neighbourhood.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The fatalities included a woman in the house plus two men on board the plane.
The three remaining men on the plane and two women in the house were injured.
The single-engine propeller aircraft with a 36-year-old pilot and four passengers crashed around 11am (0200 GMT) shortly after leaving Chofu airport, public broadcaster NHK reported.
An AFP photographer at the crash scene saw rescuers rushing to an ambulance carrying two victims on covered stretchers, with the remains of the charred fuselage of the Piper PA-46 nearby.
At least three houses and two cars were on fire in the residential district of Chofu just some 500m from the airport.
The crash also damaged the roofs of other houses nearby while the plane’s fuselage was left upside down in the charred remains of a home.
“At first I thought a large truck had crashed into a neighbouring house as I heard the ground shake and then I then saw this ferocious smoke,” a female witness told AFP.
Television footage showed firefighters battling the blaze. The plane came down in an area near a school, sports stadium and shopping plaza.
“I thought it was flying quite low and then I heard a bang,” a local resident who witnessed the crash told NHK.
“It was really horrible. It was dangerous,” NHK news quoted an 82-year-old witness as saying.
The plane was bound for Izuoshima island in the Pacific some 100km south of central Tokyo for a one-day training flight, local media said.
An official at Nippon Aerotech, which owns the aircraft, apologised for the crash and told reporters that the cause of the accident was still being investigated.
The passengers may have been pilots-in-training, according to local media.
“This place is close to the airport but I’m surprised because I had never thought that an airplane would crash,” the 82-year-old woman told NHK.
The authorities are investigating the accident on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death, reports said.
“I have lived here for a long time and get used to the noise of light planes, but it was obviously abnormal,” Kotaro Sunaga, a 32-year-old businessman, told Jiji Press.
The airport, run by the Tokyo Metropolitan government and with an 800m runway, remains closed following the accident.
The weather agency said it was clear and sunny with little wind near the airport, while NHK said the plane passed an annual check-up in May.
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