Light plane crashes into Melbourne shopping complex


Light plane crashes into Melbourne shopping complex

Media captionAerial footage from Channel 9 News shows the aftermath of the crash

A plane carrying five people has crashed into a Melbourne shopping centre, Australian authorities say.

Police have not released details of possible casualties. The complex was not open at the time and one retailer said all its staff were accounted for.

The charter flight appeared to have had "catastrophic engine failure" on take-off from Melbourne's small Essendon Airport, said Supt Mick Frewen.

"Close to taking off from the runway, it called in a mayday," he said.

Victoria's Police Minister Lisa Neville said the five people were travelling to Tasmania's King Island, in nearby Bass Strait.

"It appears to be a very, very tragic accident that has occurred out there," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

A spokeswoman for Spotlight, a retailer in the complex, said the plane crashed into its rear warehouse but all staff were safe.

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Image caption Television footage showed damage to a shopping centre

Essendon Airport, mostly used by light planes, is about 13km (8 miles) north-west of central Melbourne.

Damage at scene

Footage broadcast on local media showed black smoke rising from the wreckage.

Witness Daniel May said he was waiting for the shopping centre to open when the the plane came down.

"There was an orange explosion and then smoke," he told The Age. "Emergency crews rushed very quickly in, soon after, and I left the area."

Police said they were evacuating the area and a nearby freeway was closed in both directions.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it would investigate the crash.

King Island, popular for its beaches and dairy farms, lies 245km (150 miles) south of Melbourne in Bass Strait.