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5 dead after small plane crashes in southern Louisiana

A small plane en route to a college football game crashed into the parking lot of a post office in Louisiana shortly after takeoff on Saturday, killing five people, including a well-known sports reporter who was the daughter-in-law of one of the team's coaches.

2-engine Piper Cheyenne crashed in Lafayette not far from the regional airport where the flight began

The burnt wreckage of a plane crash can be seen near Feu Follet Road and Verot School Road in Lafayette, La., on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019. (Scott Clause/The Lafayette Advertiser via The Associated Press)

A small plane en route to a college football game crashed into the parking lot of a post office in Louisiana shortly after takeoff on Saturday, killing five people, including a well-known sports reporter who was the daughter-in-law of one of the team's coaches.

The two-engine Piper Cheyenne crashed in the city of Lafayette about 1.6 kilometres from the regional airport where the flight began, Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Tony Molinaro said. Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating, according to Molinaro and an NTSB statement on Twitter.

The plane was an eight-passenger aircraft, said Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit. Six people were on board the plane, five of whom were killed, he said. The sixth person, a 37-year-old man, was being treated at an area hospital along with two people who were in the post office.

A person who was either in or near a car on the ground was also "impacted" by the crash and was being treated for injuries, Benoit said. He did not elaborate. A blackened car sat in the post office parking lot, which was carpeted with scattered tree limbs.

Kevin Jackson and other eyewitnesses told KLFY-TV that the plane hit a car as it fell, and that someone could be heard screaming inside the vehicle.

Plane en route to Peach Bowl

The plane was en route to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta between Louisiana State University and Oklahoma, said Steven Ensminger Jr., who told The Associated Press that his wife, Carley McCord, was on board. Ensminger Jr. is the son of the offensive co-ordinator for the LSU football team. McCord was a sports reporter.

Ensminger Jr. said he was unable to go to the game and was at work when the crash happened. He said his father, Steven Ensminger, called him just before the elder Ensminger got to the stadium.

"I just don't feel like this is real," Ensminger Jr. told the Associated Press in an Instagram message. "I'm praying it's not real."

The elder Ensminger had tears in his eyes when he appeared on the field at the start of the game Saturday afternoon, and LSU players embraced him with hugs.

"He's the MVP right now," LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said in an on-air halftime interview. LSU won 63-28.

The Lafayette Fire Department identified the other people who were killed as Ian E. Biggs, 51, the plane's pilot; Robert Vaughn Crisp II, 59; Gretchen D. Vincent, 51; and Michael Walker Vincent, 15. The injured passenger, Stephen Wade Berzas, was in critical condition, said department spokesman Alton Trahan.

The plane went down in a part of the city with a scattering of banks, fast food chains and other businesses.

Investigators look over the site of a plane crash in Lafayette, La., that left five people dead on Saturday, Dec. 28. (Scott Clause/The Lafayette Advertiser via The Associated Press)

'It could have been a lot worse'

Marty Brady, 22, said the lights went out at his apartment about 180 metres or so away from the crash site as he was preparing to make coffee.

He said he ran out and saw black smoke and flames from the post office parking lot and downed power lines.

"There were some people screaming and somebody yelled that it was a plane," he said.

Brady said the plane clipped a power line over the gate to his apartment complex.

"If it had been a little lower, it could have been a lot worse," he said.

TV station 'devastated' by reporter's loss

McCord was a Baton Rouge native and sports reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans, according to her website. She also appeared as a sideline reporter for ESPN.

McCord previously worked in television in Cleveland, and she was a two-time runner-up in the Miss Louisiana pageant.

Acadiana head coach Matt McCullough, left, speaks with Carley McCord, centre, following a win over Destrehan in the State Division 5A Championship football game in Lafayette, La., in this Dec. 14, 2019 photo. McCord has been identified as one of the victims in a plane crash in Louisiana earlier Saturday. (Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via The Associated Press)

"We are devastated by the loss of such an amazing talent and valued member of our WDSU family," said WDSU president and general manager, Joel Vilmenay. "Carley's passion for sports journalism and her deep knowledge of Louisiana sports, from high school to the professional ranks, made her an exceptional journalist. "

In a statement, the NFL's New Orleans Saints and the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans said they were "devastated" by McCord's death.

"Carley was a valued member of both our New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans family as an in-game host, and her infectious personality and knowledge of both teams entertained our fans," the teams said.

Ensminger Jr. said he and his wife had the same birthday, and he shared a photo of the two celebrating at a restaurant, a dessert with a candle between them. His Instagram account shows photos of the couple and their families at various sporting events and celebrations. He updated the account Saturday to say: "I'll never be the same with out you, Carley! You are, and will forever be my world."

McCord is the second journalist working in the New Orleans area to die in a plane crash this year. On August 16, WVUE news anchor Nancy Parker was doing a story in New Orleans about stunt pilot Franklin Augustus when the two crashed. Both Parker and Augustus died.

Lafayette is the fourth-largest city in Louisiana with a population of about 130,000, according to the 2018 census. It is located about 217 kilometres west of New Orleans.

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