UPDATE 10:42am: Victoria Police have now confirmed that the plane crashed shortly after takeoff. Mayday calls were made by the pilot of the plane, and police understand the cause of the crash is “catastrophic engine failure.” Reports now also confirm that all staff inside the DFO were safely evacuated.
EARLIER: Reports are emerging of a crash at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport, with early word suggesting that a light plane may have run off the runway.
Both the Calder and Tullamarine Freeways are now closed in both directions as authorities attend to the scene.
Motorists travelling along the freeway at the time reported thick plumes of black smoke rising from the runway of the airport; Melbourne’s smaller airport used for charter and special-service air vehicles.
— Thomas Maggs (@Tsm042) February 20, 2017
— Belinda (@pelagonianprncs) February 20, 2017
**BREAKING** Reports that an Air Ambulance King Air has CRASHED near Runway 17 at ESSENDON AIRPORT pic.twitter.com/NzaBWzq8cX
— Jimmy Traffic (@JimmyTraffic) February 20, 2017
Details at the moment are sketchy, but initial reports from the scene are indicating that the vessel may have crashed into part of the neighbouring Essendon Fields DFO shopping outlet.
At least eight fire crews are attending the scene, according to Fairfax Media.
Footage shot moments ago from the scene shows the horrific-looking scene, with extensive damage to the exterior of the DFO apparent.
— The Morning Show (@morningshowon7) February 20, 2017
— Triple M Brisbane (@TripleMBrisbane) February 20, 2017
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) February 20, 2017
No word yet of any potential injuries in the incident.
The aircraft, initially reported to be an air ambulance, was reportedly carrying up to 5 passengers.
PRIOR UPDATES 9:58am: VicRoads and Victoria Police have both issued statements on the incident.
A short time ago VicRoads issued the following:
“The Tullamarine Freeway is closed in both directions between English Street and Bell Street.
The Calder Freeway is closed in both directions between McNamara Avenue and Bell Street.
Bulla Road is closed at the Tullamarine Freeway including the entry ramp to the Tullamarine Freeway inbound.
Delay travel through the area and seek an alternative route.
VicRoads advises motorists to exit the Tullamarine Freeway as early as possible and keep away from the area.”
Meanwhile, police confirmed details of the incident, which occurred just prior to 9am:
“Emergency services are responding to a plane crash into a building near Bulla Road in Essendon Fields.
It is believed the plane crashed just before 9am.
At this stage we do not have information regarding possible casualties and police are currently evacuating the area. The surrounding roads will be effected for some time.
We will bring you further information as it comes to hand.”
10:24am: The plane is now confirmed to have crashed into the Focus Furniture and JB Hi-Fi stores at the DFO. The stores were not open to customers at the time of the crash, however staff were inside. Both stores have been evacuated.
More on this major story as it develops.
Photo: Thomas Maggs/Twitter.