ATLANTA — Four people died Friday when a small passenger plane crashed into a busy Atlanta interstate shortly after taking off from an airport, authorities said.
The Piper PA-32 took off from DeKalb Peachtree Airport and apparently ran into trouble not long afterward, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Kathleen Bergen said.
Motorist Don McGhee, 48, said he saw the aircraft nearly hit a traffic light pole near the highway on-ramp.
“It looked like it was struggling. You could see him trying to get the nose of the plane up. It was edging up, and then it just dropped,” McGhee said. “It was just a huge fire, just smoke and fire.”
Witnesses said the intense blaze prevented anyone on the ground from helping any victims in the wreckage.
DeKalb Fire Capt. Eric Jackson said all four people onboard died in the crash, though authorities did not immediately release the names of the victims.
The plane nearly struck a vehicle driven by a former DeKalb County firefighter.
“It’s a miracle, literally a miracle, that no other cars were hit,” Jackson told reporters.
Emergency officials shut down Interstate 285 in both directions, causing large traffic jams.
Jackson said the scene of the crash must be preserved so investigators can determine what happened.