MEDFORD, Ore. — A preliminary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) incident report indicates that two people died when a plane crashed outside of the Medford Airport Chevrolet dealership on Sunday shortly after taking off from the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.
The Medford Police Department had previously confirmed one fatality, the aircraft pilot. But the FAA's incident notice lists two — one flight crew and one passenger. The identities of the pilot and any potential passenger have not yet been confirmed.
The plane, a Piper PA-31-350, was manufactured in 1977. It was registered to Donald Sefton of Fallon, Nevada.
"Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances into a car dealership and caught on fire, Medford, OR," the FAA brief says.
Video provided to NewsWatch 12 from two angles shows that the plane descended rapidly and at a near-vertical angle before slamming into the Airport Chevy lot, creating a plume of smoke and then exploding into flame seconds later.
The Medford Airport tower notified its fire department just before 5 p.m. that an "Alert Three" had been issued, which usually means that a local plane had experienced an incident.
Airport Fire Chief John Karns told NewsWatch 12 on Sunday that he believed the plane had just taken off from the airport immediately prior to the crash. Karns said he believed that the plane was not a local aircraft.
Karns said he understood the plane to be a Piper Navajo, which is a twin-engine, gas powered aircraft. First responders had described it as a 9-passenger propeller plane.
It is not believed anyone on the ground was injured. NewsWatch 12 also learned that Cascade Christian High School basketball players were told to shelter in place inside of the high school's gym for an unknown amount of time.
The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA were notified of the incident soon after the crash on Sunday evening.
Airport Chevrolet said shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday that its Sales department was back open after the building was damaged and lost power in the crash. The dealership said that no staff were injured.
"Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the pilot," Airport Chevrolet said in a Facebook post.