A small private plane crashed into the Back Bay Sunday night, killing at least three people on board.
Newport Beach police received a call about 5:45 p.m. that the single-engine plane was in distress and that the pilot wanted to land on Newport Center Drive, according to Sgt. Steve Burdette.
As police personnel were clearing cars and people, they received another call that the plane had crashed into the Back Bay, Burdette said.
The 1968 Beechcraft Muskateer landed upside down on a mudflat.
Registered under Palos Verdes real estate broker Chuck Chambers, the plane was en route from Mexico to Torrance, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Police said they could not identify who was on board.
The pilot had first called the tower at John Wayne Airport to warn that it was running low on fuel, said airport spokeswoman Jenny Wedge.
After the call, one firefighter saw the plane pass only 50 feet above the nearby fire station, flying at a slow speed, said Fire Division Chief Paul Matheis.
"It was clearly in trouble," Matheis said.
About 10 firefighters trudged into the knee-deep water to rescue any potential survivors, Matheis said, but they were only able to pull out the three dead passengers.
Later, Orange County Sheriff Department boats idled near the plane, as deputies laid out an inflatable orange boom. Deputies cordoned off the area for any possible oil or fuel leaking into the ecological preserve.