ELKO — A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman says a plane carrying four people crashed Friday evening in Elko.
The plane had just taken off from Elko’s airport and was transporting a heart patient to the University of Utah when the aircraft plowed into the Barrick Gold Corp. parking lot, the Elko Daily Free Press reported.
Allen Kenitzer, with the FAA, said the Piper PA 31 airplane went down under unknown circumstances.
The crash caused multiple explosions and sent up flames near a busy casino, grocery store and senior housing complex.
A cardiologist told the Elko Daily Free Press that medical flights similar to the one that crashed Friday typically have a nurse on board along with the patient, as well as two crew members. More information on the plane’s occupants was not immediately available.
Shortly after 10 p.m., Barrick Gold Corp. tweeted that “at this time, there appear to be no injuries to people on the ground.”
Hillary Walker, a manager at the Smith’s grocery store just 200 yards from the crash, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal she stepped outside just as the downed plane exploded a second time, which caused several vehicles in the nearby parking lot to catch fire.
“Live ammo from people’s vehicles was going off left and right,” she said. “I heard about 50 rounds, give or take.”
Elko plan crash😩 pic.twitter.com/dS7Ch2UFws
— Tyler (@TBelderrain) November 19, 2016
Walker, 27, said the ammunition was likely in so many cars because “it’s hunting season out here.”
“For a lot of people here, hunting is their passion, their side job,” she said.
The parking lot where the plane crashed was “full,” Walker added. Miners use it to park before catching a bus to work, and a busload of workers was headed back to the parking lot just before the crash.
“I’m just glad, as bad as it sounds, (the plane) hit a parking lot and not the casino nearby, or the shopping center,” she said, adding that both areas were bustling with many people out and about.
After the crash, her first instinct was to make sure her customers and employees were safe.
“A lot of our minors work here, 18- and 17-year-old kids,” she said. “They’re outside pushing carts. I was like, ‘Whoa, we need to get you guys inside.’ ”
Walker added that she’s seen houses catch fire, but “nothing like this.”
“I feel sorry for the loss (of the people on board), and the families,” she said, “especially so close to the holidays.”
The FAA and the NTSB will investigate.
— Barrick Nevada (@BarrickNevada) November 19, 2016