Six people, including two children, have been killed after a private jet crashed into a house in Maryland.
The tragedy on Monday killed all three people on board the aircraft, as well as a mother and her two sons inside the property in Gaithersburg, a suburb of Washington DC.
Authorities said the plane crashed around 10.45am local time on Monday.
Witnesses told local media that the plane had been circling with the wheels down, and looked as if it was struggling for control.
They reported seeing and hearing a secondary explosion after the plane hit the ground.
The pilot and two passengers were quickly confirmed dead but it was a number of hours until 36-year-old Marie Gemmell and her two sons, three-year-old Cole and one-month-old Devon, were found and identified, police said.
The family were found in a second-floor bathroom. Ms Gemmell was lying on top of her young sons in an apparent effort to shield them from the smoke and fire, said police Captain Paul Starks.
Her husband and a school-age daughter were not home and were accounted for, police said.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Embrarer EMB-500/Phenom 100 twin-engine jet, which seats six people, was registered to Michael Rosenberg. Rosenberg was an adjunct professor of epidemiology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Chief executive of clinical research company Health Decisions, Inc.
In 2010, Rosenberg crashed another airplane nearby, although there were no injuries in that crash, according to National Transportation Safety Board records. The 2010 accident occurred at the Montgomery County Airpark, which was also Rosenberg's destination on Monday, when he lost control while landing and crashed into trees, according to records.
Investigators are still trying to determine if Rosenberg was at the controls at the time of yesterday's crash.
The fuselage of the jet crashed into the front lawn of an adjacent home, which was heavily damaged by fire, and investigators believe one of its wings, which had fuel inside, was sheared off and tore through the front of the Gemmell home, said Robert Sumwalt, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member.
The damage to the two-storey, wood-frame house was catastrophic. The first floor was nearly completely blown out and smoke drifted from a gaping hole in what was left of the collapsing roof. No-one was injured in the adjacent homes that also had major damage.
Fred Pedreira, 67, who lives near the crash site, said he had just returned home and was parking his car when he saw the jet and immediately knew something was wrong.
“This guy, when I saw him, for a fast jet with the wheels down, I said, 'I think he's coming in too low',” Mr Pedreira told The Associated Press. “Then he was 90 degrees - sideways - and then he went belly-up into the house and it was a ball of fire. It was terrible.
“I tell you, I got goosebumps when I saw it,“ Mr Pedreira said. “I said, 'My God, those are people in that plane'.”
Investigators, who were expected to be on the scene for up to seven days, will examine the experience and training of the pilot, weather factors, engine condition and interview the aircraft controller who handled the attempted landing, NTSB spokesman Robert Sumwalt said. They will also look into a possible bird strike.
“Our mission is to find out what happened and why it happened so it will never happen again,” Sumwalt told the news conference.
Additional reporting by agencies
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