A group of U.S. citizens traveling in Australia this week suddenly lost their lives in a plane crash.
Shortly after departing Melbourne’s Essendon Airport, the plane crashed into an Australian shopping center Tuesday morning. The small chartered plane contained only five people — the four U.S. tourists and an Australian pilot. There were no survivors.
Local police said they expect the plane was intended for King Island and do not yet know the cause of the incident.
The plane, a Hawker Beechcraft, struck the shopping complex before 9 a.m., Australian time. There were no occupants inside the building at the time of the crash. However, officials are treating people who witnessed the incident for shock and police and firefighters remain at the scene.
Victoria’s Minister for Police Lisa Neville said the crash details “are still being confirmed by police and fire services.”
Neville said the plane crash is a “very tragic accident” and authorities will have more information on the cause and the victims shortly.
One of the known victims, Texas-native and retired FBI agent Greg Reynolds De Haven, 70, was on a three-week vacation. His sister said he was traveling with his wife and friends on a golf outing. She said “he was an
awesome guy” and described him as an athlete and a “man’s man.”
De Haven’s wife was not on board the aircraft.
Stephen Leane, assistant commissioner of Victoria Police, said the incident was “catastrophic” and took a number of lives. However, despite the lives lost, Leane explained the outcome could be much worse.
“If we look at the circumstances, we’ve been very lucky today depending on the time of day and who was around,” he said.
Officials at the shopping center, DFO Essendon, usually open the center at 10 a.m. Now, they will keep the complex closed for another day and will keep the section hit by the plane closed throughout the police investigation.