A small plane caught fire in the sky over Gilbert and Chandler and then crashed into a Gilbert home Saturday night. The plane’s four passengers — all skydivers, according to Gilbert fire Capt. Gary Hildebrandt — bailed out of the plane and landed safely. The pilot, also a skydiver, jumped later and landed in a field about half a mile from the crash site. He was burned and taken to the hospital. His condition was unknown but his injuries were not life-threatening, according to Hildebrandt.
At approximately 7:19 p.m., the plane crashed into a home in the 400 block of Baylor Lane near Gilbert and Ray Roads. The two occupants of the home were in the living room watching TV when the plane hit the house, but were able to get out uninjured, Hildebrandt said. The house caught fire, with plane parts hitting the house and backyard.
Nearby homes were not affected, although the neighborhood was full of smoke, water and the smell of burning fuel.
Hildebrandt said the pilot radioed in before the crash saying the plane’s wing was on fire.
“The pilot indicated he had a problem,” Hildebrandt said, adding that communication from the aircraft ceased shortly afterward.
The group was supposed to skydive into a Constitution Week celebration at the nearby Gilbert Civic Center, he said. About 50 skydivers were participating in the event, he said.
Federal Aviation Spokesman Allen Kenitzer confirmed the plane to be a Cessna 182 and stated the FAA along with the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash.
Neighbors in the area reported seeing a plane catch fire in the air.
“My husband and I were on our swing outside watching this plane go around, and all of a sudden we heard this big bang and we saw the plane catch on fire,” said Jeri Kimbro, who lives in Chandler near Cooper and Ray roads.
Kimbro said it appeared to be trying to reach the nearby Chandler airport.
“It was on fire pretty bad,” she said. “There were pieces of it on fire everywhere. We watched it go down. It was really sad. We’re praying for their families.”
Raina Strawn said she saw the plane crash into her neighborhood.
“I just saw the figure of a plane falling,” she said.
Mason Paulette also witnessed the crash. “I saw a ball of flame straight down,” he said. “It’s not something you want to see.”