Four people are now dead after a small plane crashed Friday morning on Interstate 285 just north of Atlanta, Georgia, shortly after takeoff. One fire official has declared it a "miracle" that no other vehicles except a trailer were hit.
"It's a miracle, literally a miracle, that no other cars were hit," Capt. Eric Jackson of the DeKalb County Fire Department noted in a USA Today report.
According to USA Today, the plane which was carrying three males, one female and a pet, took off from the Dekalb Peachtree Airport at 9:59 a.m. and went down at around 10 a.m. ET near Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
Witnesses who saw the plane go down said it was obvious very quickly that the aircraft was in distress.
"It looked like it was struggling. You could see him [pilot] trying to get the nose of the plane up. It was edging up, and then it just dropped," motorist Don McGhee, 48, who saw the aircraft nearly hit a traffic light pole near the highway onramp, told USA Today. "It was just a huge fire, just smoke and fire."
The plane's impact, he said, felt "like a bomb being dropped."
The plane clipped a tractor trailer but the driver of the vehicle avoided injury by slamming on his brakes, according to CNN. It was the only vehicular contact reported.
"It wasn't any higher than the top of my truck," said driver Gerald Smith. "By the time I hit the brakes, I heard the impact."
According to Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News the plane's pilot "calmly" reported an issue and said "hey, we're going down" before the crash.
Witnesses told USA Today that it was difficult to help the victims because of the massive blaze from the crash.
"Right after takeoff there's not enough altitude, so you can't turn around and go back to the airport," Phil Holloway, a WXIA-TV legal analyst who's also a licensed pilot, noted. "I-285 is about the best option you've got. But of course, it's not a good option at 10 o'clock in the morning. ... There was really no option that made a lot of sense."
The identities of the victims have not yet been released, but businessman Grady Byrd of Asheville told USA Today that he owned the plane and said his son, two grandsons and one grandson's fiancée were on board.
The National Transportation Safety Board is on the ground investigating the crash and some of the area's schools are expected to close early.