4 dead in Fort Lauderdale plane crash

Small plane crashes in wooded area

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Four people are dead after a plane crashed into a nature preserve Sunday in Fort Lauderdale.

The crash occurred about 4:30 p.m. in a wooded area near Northwest 62nd Street, just north of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the twin-engine Piper PA-31 was preparing to land at the airport when the pilot declared an emergency.

The plane departed from Orlando Executive Airport.

"When he was about two miles from the runway, he reported smoke in the cockpit," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ralph Hicks said Monday.

LISTEN: Pilot yells 'Mayday' in radio transmission

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Division Chief Chantal Botting said firefighters put out the flames within minutes, but no one survived the crash.

The names of the victims have not been released.

Witnesses said the plane banked sharply before nose-diving into the ground.

Bavon Sylvain was across the street playing soccer at Calvary Chapel when the plane crashed.

"It just looked too low," he told Local 10 News.

Bobby Bemis said "a big black pillar of smoke and fire filled the sky."

Sylvain posted cellphone video of the aftermath on his Instagram account.

"I can't believe I just saw a plane crash," he said.

Witnesses said they tried to help, but it was too hot.

FAA records show the plane was built in 1979 and had recently been re-certified. It was registered to a company in Onalaska, Texas.

NTSB investigators spent much of Monday removing the debris from the wreckage site.

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