Two individuals died after a small private jet crashed and burst into flames as it attempted an emergency landing on Interstate 75 in southwest Florida on Friday afternoon. The collision, also took away two vehicles, and brought traffic to a standstill as a plume of black smoke billowed into the sky.
The incident unfolded near the Pine Ridge Road exit in Collier County, just north of the point where the interstate veers east toward Fort Lauderdale along the infamous Alligator Alley.
Witnesses reported a sudden explosion of flames accompanied by a deafening boom as the aircraft made impact, scattering debris across the highway. Among the vehicles struck was a pickup truck, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
Identified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a Bombardier Challenger 600 jet, the aircraft was carrying five individuals when the crash occurred around 3:15 p.m. local time.
The flight departed from Ohio State University Airport in Columbus at approximately 1 p.m. The jet was en route to Naples and was scheduled to arrive around the time of the accident.
Pilots aboard the stricken aircraft had urgently requested an emergency landing, citing a loss of both engines before communication with air traffic control was severed. Airport personnel observed the ensuing smoke just a few miles from the airport after losing contact.
Emergency responders rushed to the scene, deploying fire trucks equipped with specialized foam. Despite the devastating impact, three of the five occupants were extracted from the wreckage alive.
FlightAware.com, an aircraft tracking website, indicated that the jet was operated by Hop-a-Jet Worldwide Charter, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The aircraft was slated to return to Fort Lauderdale later that Friday afternoon.
In the aftermath of the crash, authorities closed the southbound lanes of the interstate, urging motorists to seek alternative routes as investigations and cleanup efforts commenced.