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Small plane crashes into busy Atlanta highway; 4 killed

May 8, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) — A small passenger airplane dropped from the sky and grazed the hood of a truck before it crashed into a major Atlanta highway Friday, killing all four people aboard and starting an intense fire on the busy road.

The Piper PA-32 apparently ran into trouble not long afterward taking off, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Kathleen Bergen said.

Witnesses said the blaze prevented anyone on the ground from helping any victims in the wreckage. Those who tried included commercial truck driver Gerald Smith.

Smith said that as the aircraft plummeted, he had just enough time to slam on his brakes. He saw the plane swooping in low toward the passenger door of his tractor-trailer.

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 and a truck.

The tail, other wreckage and charred concrete could be seen at the median barrier where the plane crashed. Smaller debris littered the area, including a propeller lying on the roadway about 40 feet (12 meters) from most of the wreckage.

Emergency officials shut down Interstate 285 in both directions, causing large traffic jams. The Georgia Department of Transportation said some lanes near the crash site could be closed for eight hours.

Jackson said the scene of the crash needed to be preserved so investigators can determine what happened.

Update hourly