SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- A small jet that took off from Idaho ran off the runway and into a storage hangar at a Southern California airport on Sunday night, causing the hangar to collapse in flames around it, officials said.
Firefighters were still contending hours later with the smoldering ruins of the building and the plane at Santa Monica Municipal Airport, and had yet to determine how many people were inside the jet, but it was unlikely anyone was alive inside.
“This was an unsurvivable crash,” Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. John Nevandro said at a media briefing at the airport.
The twin-engine Cessna Citation that had taken off from Hailey, Idaho, went off the right side of the runway at about 6:20 p.m. and struck the hangar, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The blaze did minor damage to two other buildings and destroyed the hangar.
“It was a total loss,” Fire Department spokeswoman Bridgett Lewis said.
News helicopter footage showed all but the tail of the plane trapped under a collapsed section of the small hangar.
Neither aviation nor rescue officials were yet able to say how many people were aboard the plane, nor whether anyone was inside the hangar.
A crane would be required to remove the remains of the hangar, and investigators were unlikely to be able to get to the plane until Monday, Gregor said.
A plume of smoke rising above the airport could be seen in the twilight sky over the populous neighborhoods surrounding the airport in the hours after the crash.
Jack Bonner, 15, said he was hanging out at his home near the airport with a friend when he heard a boom “like a thunderclap.”
“I was like, ‘Wow, what the heck is going on?’” he told the Los Angeles Times, before turning on the TV and learning about the plane.
The jet, a Cessna 525A manufactured in 2003, is registered to a Malibu, Calif. address and its corporate owner, Creative Real Estate Exchange, is based in Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta, according to FAA public records.
Phone messages left after hours at the real estate company’s two offices were not immediately returned.
Santa Monica Airport, located in the coastal tourist destination known for its trendy bars, restaurants and wooden-pier carnival, is home to many private jets, many of them used by wealthy Southern Californians from the entertainment industry.
The airport in Hailey serves Idaho’s Sun Valley resort area, which is a frequent destination for many celebrities, and the rich and powerful alike.