No one on the ground was injured, but an unoccupied vehicle in the parking lot was extensively damaged.
Plane's final moments caught on auto dashcam outside of John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. He said it appeared that the plane "went down pretty abruptly", and added that while the plane leaked jet fuel, it didn't ignite.
The twin-engine 1973 Cessna light plane, bound for John Wayne Airport in Orange County, had roughly a mile to go till the airport when it crashed on the parking lot in front of the Staples store.
Lara Shepherd, Floria Hakimi and Ghanadan were all Realtors with Pacific Union International, the eighth-largest real estate brokerage firm in the country, according to the company's website.
No one on the ground was hurt and there were no other passengers in the plane.
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The Orange County Fire Authority, who responded on the scene, said they were lucky the crash wasn't as deadly as it could have been.
"We looked up to see the plane falling nose first", she told the Times.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said the pilot of the twin-engine Cessna 414 declared an emergency before crashing.
Witnesses in watched in horror as the plane flew low over the shopping area near the upscale South Coast Plaza mall and nosedived into the parking lot. A phone call to the company was not immediately returned.
The agency will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the cause of the accident, the FAA said in a tweet.