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.
The FAA will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the cause of the accident. The plane struck a parked vehicle but no one on the ground was injured, he said.
There were no reported injuries on the ground, said Capt. Steve Concialdi of Orange County Fire.
"It was so heartbreaking just seeing the plane crumbled into pieces", one witness told The Los Angeles Times.
The Cessna 414 is registered to an owner in San Francisco, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
On Twitter an eyewitness wrote: "Never in my life did I think I would see a plane fall out of the sky".
"There was no fire, no flames, no smoke, nothing".
Emma Gonzales, who works at the Buffalo Wild Wings in the strip mall, said she felt the building shake.
The location of the crash is between the cities of Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, about 40 minutes south of Los Angeles.
Shortly after declaring an emergency on Sunday afternoon the plane suddenly nosedived into the parking lot.
Images from the scene showed the wreckage of the jet in the middle of parked cars.
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