Pilot killed when plane out of Van Nuys crashes on Santa Maria-area school playground

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A small plane crashed and burst into flames on an elementary school playground in northern Santa Barbara County, killing the pilot on Wednesday morning, officials said.

The single-engine Cirrus SR20 had departed from Van Nuys Airport and was headed to Santa Maria, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The aircraft was about 3 miles from the airport when it crashed on the grounds of Ralph Dunlap Elementary School in the Orcutt area and caught fire just before 10:45 a.m., said Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.

Firefighters from the Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria fire departments responded and extinguished the flames.

Photos from the scene showed the charred wreckage on the playground near the basketball court.

The pilot, the lone occupant on board, died on impact, according to Eliason. Authorities have not yet identified the victim.

The school was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and no students or staff were on the campus when the fiery crash occurred, he said.

Witnesses told KTLA they say the plane plummet from the sky, followed by a parachute, before immediately exploding into flames.

Investigators with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board have been dispatched to the scene to determine what caused the plane to go down, according to Gregor.

No further information was immediately released.

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