Alan Birmaher was driving to a friend's house in Miramar, Florida, Tuesday morning when out of the corner of his eye he saw a small plane that was flying so low that he said he could see the pilot's face.
Seconds later he watched as the Piper PA-34 clipped power lines, caught on fire and crashed.
"It looked like he was trying to land on the road," Birmaher said.
One person from the plane was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities confirmed, and the other was transported to the hospital with serious injuries.
A third person on the ground was injured by debris from the crash, but was treated and released at the scene.
The pilot told air traffic controllers that he was attempting to return to the airport when the aircraft went down, according to a preliminary statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FAA are investigating the crash.
ABC affiliate WPLG reported that the plane was registered to the Wayman Aviation Flight School and the student pilot who died had almost completed his training.
"The flight training is all about emergency operations," Eddy Luy, vice president of Wayman Aviation Academy, told WPLG. "It's about what happens in case of this, in case of that, and they seemed to have followed those procedures just fine, but the timing was not right for them."
ABC News' Rachel Katz and Benjamin Stein contributed to this report.