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Small plane crashes into busy Atlanta interstate; 4 killed

Police look toward the wreckage of a plane crash on Interstate 285, Friday, May 8, 2015, in Doraville, Ga. Spokesman Capt. Eric Jackson of the DeKalb County Fire Department told reporters that four were onboard, and all died. He says the east-west highway is shut down in both directions. He says he doesn't know any details about where the plane was headed. | David Goldman / AP

ATLANTA — A small passenger airplane crashed into an Atlanta interstate Friday, killing all four people aboard and starting an intense fire on the busy road, authorities said.

The Piper PA-32 took off from DeKalb Peachtree Airport and apparently ran into trouble not long afterward, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Kathleen Bergen said.

Motorist Don McGhee, 48, said he saw the aircraft nearly hit a traffic light pole near the highway onramp.

“It looked like it was struggling. You could see him trying to get the nose of the plane up. It was edging up, and then it just dropped,” McGhee said. “It was just a huge fire, just smoke and fire.”

Witnesses said the blaze prevented anyone on the ground from helping any victims in the wreckage.

DeKalb Fire Capt. Eric Jackson said all four people onboard died in the crash, though authorities did not immediately release the names of the victims. The plane nearly struck a vehicle driven by a former DeKalb County firefighter and a truck.

“It’s a miracle, literally a miracle, that no other cars were hit,” Jackson told reporters.

The tail, other wreckage and charred concrete could be seen at the median barrier where the plane crashed. Smaller debris littered the area, including a propeller lying on the roadway about 40 feet from most of the wreckage.

Emergency officials shut down Interstate 285 in both directions, causing large traffic jams. Jackson said the scene of the crash must be preserved so investigators can determine what happened.