Five hurt, three seriously, after small plane crashes into DeLand Publix

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By Dave Weber And Susan Jacobson, The Orlando Sentinel (MCT): DELAND — Five people were injured when an experimental airplane crashed into the roof of a Publix supermarket Monday evening.

Two people on the twin-engine plane and one on the ground received serious burns and were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, authorities said.

Two more people on the ground were injured, said Sgt. Chris Estes, a DeLand police spokesman. All were customers shopping in the store in Northgate Shopping Center, said Dwaine Stevens, a Publix spokesman.

The crash happened about 7:20 p.m. EDT, less than two miles west of DeLand Municipal Airport, where the plane had just taken off, Estes said.

Roth Peeler, who lives about 300 feet behind the store, said he saw the plane go down. Afterward, he walked to the front and saw people running, trying to get into their cars and out of the parking lot, he said.

“A small single-engine, yellow plane spiraled right down and through the roof and just exploded,” Peeler said. “Not a piece of the plane came out. It’s all in the store.”

Resident Frank Plumb also witnessed the crash.

“I was sitting down, eating dinner and heard a boom,” he said. “When I looked out my window, I saw a black cloud of smoke.”

Pavel Rebollar, 11, also was witness to the tragedy.

The fifth-grader at Blue Lake Elementary in DeLand said he was leaving the store with his mother, Rosalia, and was loading groceries into their car.

“We heard a swirling noise. I turned around and saw the plane crash,” he said. “I just saw the tail, and then the whole ground shook. The fire came out, and then the smoke.”

Smoke was pouring out of the building shortly after the crash, but the walls of the Publix did not appear to be damaged. About 20 fire trucks and other emergency vehicles were on the scene.

“The entire shopping center is pretty much closed at this point,” Estes said.

Damage to the store has not been assessed because employees aren’t allowed inside, Stevens said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be notified, police said. An FAA spokeswoman said she had no information on the crash.

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