DETROIT (WJBK) - Two people died in a small plane crash Sunday night near Detroit's City Airport on the city's east side. A teenager was rescued from the plane and is hospitalized in critical condition.
Three people, two men and a woman, were inside the plane at the time of the crash. The plane was coming from Memphis, Arkansas and was expected to arrive at Detroit City Airport around 8:00 p.m.
The crash happened just before 8 p.m., and it's not known yet what happened. According to Andrew Todd Fox, air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board of Chicago, the pilot was in communication practically the entire flight. As it approached the Detroit area, the pilot was in contact with a tower and requested landing clearance.
Fox says the pilot was given clearance, but he reported a malfunction with landing gear. The tower confirmed they did not see all three landing gear extended. As the pilot circled the airport, asking the tower where to land, the pilot then reported the plane was either low or out of fuel. Fox added the pilot was in Arkansas for a fuel stop and had requested 60 gallons. They are unsure how many he left with, but Fox said he believes the plane could got 89 gallons worth of fuel. Fox said the 3 hour and 15 minute trip was well within the range of what the plane could handle if properly fueled.
Witnesses say the plane hit trees, hit the ground and then caught fire. Fox confirms the plane hit two trees and there was a 250-foot wreckage impact.
The plane was fully engulfed in flames by the time rescue crews arrived. Witnesses rushed to the scene to try help the victims. They were able to help a 17-year-old man from the wreckage.
Detroit Police Capt. Mark Thorton called those who helped "courageous citizens." We talked to a man who says he helped the survivor get out of the plane.
"He gave me an ax and I started chopping the door and they said it isn't going to open. I kept chopping and they said, 'Get away from it!' And I said, 'No, man, I'm gonna die. I've got to save this guy.' So I kept chopping - and I got the door open. And he got out," says Cordell Odens.
Capt. Thorton says the survivor was coherent and speaking when he got out of the wreckage.
NOTE: Video from witness Biance Mack, which you can see in the video player above, shows a person rolling out of the wreckage. Police have not confirmed that's the survivor, but that's what witnesses at the wreckage told us. Both police and other witnesses say bystanders helped the person escape the wreckage, although that part was not captured on video.
The plane is registered to a man from a Houston suburb, but authorities haven't confirmed yet that he was the one piloting the plane.
Fox said they will not be releasing names and are not sure at this time if family have been notified. Watch the full update on the situation on FOX 2 News Now: