There was no fire and nobody on the ground was hurt, he said. "It wasn't much devastation [on the ground] other than the actual plane crash".
"And somebody - one of the patrons - yelled, and they looked up and saw the plane coming down towards the parking lot", agency spokesman Steve Concialdi said. The pilot was 53-year-old Scott Shepherd, a Diablo resident; 62-year-old Floria Hakimi from Danville; 42-year-old Lara Shepherd from Diablo; 32-year-old Navid Hakimi of Los Angeles; and 29-year-old Nasim Ghanadan from Alamo.
Steve Concialdi said the Cessna was heading to the airport when it went down and struck an empty parked vehicle in the lot of a Staples store and a CVS pharmacy.
Authorities have identified the five people killed in the crash of a small plane in the parking lot of a Southern California shopping center. The FAA said the pilot, identified as Scott Shepherd, declared an emergency just before the crash.
Witnesses said they saw the plane turn before it suddenly began to dive toward the shopping center.
Family and friends remembered Ghanadan in a series of Facebook tributes in the wake of her death. "You just felt the ground move", she said.
The FAA confirmed the pilot, who had reportedly renewed his license previous year, declared an emergency just before they crashed, and will work with NTSB authorities to investigate the cause of the crash.
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Small plane Cessna 414 departed from Concord, collapsed 2 miles from John Wayne in California.
Fire authorities were called about the crash around 12:30 p.m. local time.
Navid Hakimi, of Los Angeles, was a musician and a DJ.
"Our entire Pacific Union family is mourning the loss of our colleagues, family and friends", the company's chief executive Mark A. McLaughlin said in a statement.
The nearby intersection of Sunflower Avenue at Bristol Street was closed in all four directions as National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration investigators planned to comb the crash site. California is no stranger to planes crashing out of the blue.
"The 1973 Cessna 414 fixed wing aircraft is registered to Category III Aviation Corp in San Francisco, according to Federal Aviation Administration records."