21/02/2017 08:22 GMT

Melbourne Plane Crash Near Essendon Shopping Centre Leaves Five Dead

The four passengers were American.

Five people have been killed in a plane crash near a shopping centre in Melbourne, Australia.

Four American tourists and their Australian pilot died after the aircraft suffered a “catastrophic engine failure” shortly after takeoff on Tuesday.

The twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air crashed into the Direct Factory Outlet mall in suburban Essendon about 45 minutes before it was due to open.

Associated Press
Five people were killed in the plane crash in Melbourne

No one on the ground was killed.

Two of the victims have been identified by their families on social media as Texans Greg Reynolds De Haven and Russell Munsch.

The Associated Press reported the pilot was Max Quartermain, owner of the charter company Corporate and Leisure Travel.

The plane had taken off from Melbourne’s second-biggest airport at Essendon for a golfing trip to King Island, 160 miles to the south, officials said.

Michael Dodge via Getty Images
A view of the crash site from the Tullamarine Freeway

Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said no one outside the plane was injured.

“Looking at the fireball, it is incredibly lucky that no one was at the back of those stores or in the car park of the stores, that no one was even hurt,” Leane said.

The pilot reported a “catastrophic engine failure” moments before the plane crashed into a storage area at the rear of the mall, police said.

Police and paramedics rushed to the crash site, where firefighters doused the flames.

Malcolm Turnbull tweeted his condolences following the crash:

A witness who gave his name as Jason told Australian Broadcasting Corp. he was passing the mall in a taxi when the plane crashed.

“I saw this plane coming in really low and fast. I couldn’t see the impact but when it hit the building there was a massive fireball,” he said.

“I could feel the heat through the window of the taxi, and then a wheel - it looked like a plane wheel - bounced on the road and hit the front of the taxi as we were driving along,” he said.