Three Killed, Cars Charred in Small Plane Crash Near Florida Airport

VIDEO: Firefighters rush to put out the flames.

Three passengers on a small plane that crashed in a Fort Lauderdale parking lot today moments after takeoff are believed dead, according to a city spokesman.

Matt Little, a Fort Lauderdale spokesman, said the plane was believed to be based in the city.

The Piper Cheyenne 2 twin-engine turboprop reportedly was departing Executive Airport after 4 p.m. for a local flight when it banked to the right and crashed into parked vehicles.

"It sounded like an explosion," said one eyewitness. "It sounded like something hit a building. We didn't know what it was. We assumed it was a plane."

Image credit: ABC News

An airport spokesman told The Associated Press that the plane experienced problems right after taking off and had been trying to return to the airport.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and were seen climbing through the wreckage.

There are about 1,500 general aviation crashes every year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, killing nearly 475 pilots and passengers.

Earlier this week, the board held a meeting on improving general aviation safety, saying it remained on the NTSB's most-wanted list.

Deborah Hersman, the board's chairwoman, said that general aviation pilots were "airlines of one."

There were no reports of injuries on the ground in Fort Lauderdale - just dozens of burning cars.

"We barely made it out," the eyewitness said.

ABC News' Lisa Stark and Matt Hosford contributed to this story.

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