Key Points:

    • The plane crashed near Melbourne's Essendon Airport in Victoria at 9am
    • Five people have died
    • Unconfirmed reports say two bodies have been retrieved
    • It is believed they are golfers who were bound for King Island courses
    • The Beech aircraft hit the Essendon DFO shopping centre
    • Emergency services have closed the shopping centre
    • Witnesses reported seeing flames in the air

Five people have died after a plane crashed into a Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) shopping outlet in Melbourne.

The charter flight smashed into a building at the shopping centre close to the Essendon Airport before crashing in a fiery explosion around 9am on Tuesday morning. There were five people on board.

Confirming multiple deaths, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the crash was "the worst civil aviation incident in the state in 30 years".

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Authorities are yet to confirm details of fatalities including the identity and nationality of who was on the plane. Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane confirmed only those who were on the flight - four passengers and the pilot - were harmed.

"There were five people on the aeroplane. It looks like nobody survived the crash," he said.

The light plane had just taken off from Essendon airport when it crashed into the factory shop outlet. Photo / 9News
The light plane had just taken off from Essendon airport when it crashed into the factory shop outlet. Photo / 9News

Mr Leane said authorities were in the process of contacting families the victims, and would release further details about those on the plane "as soon as we can".

It's understood the aircraft was heading to King Island when it came in "low and fast" and hit the roof of DFO Essendon.

"It looks like it's a Beechcraft aircraft and it was a charter flight that was going to King Island, as we understand," Victoria government police Minister Lisa Neville told reporters.

"There were five people on board the flight.

"There's no status report on the condition of those who are in the aircraft or anyone yet at the DFO."

A newspaper in Tasmania has reported that the plane was carrying five golfers bound for King Island courses. The Advocate newspaper said: "A source on King Island said the golfers were due to arrive on the island on Tuesday morning".

Police superintendent Mick Frewen said the fire was still burning so investigators had been unable to get inside to determine the damage.

One cafe operator who was inside the DFO complex at the time of the crash told news.com.au the crash occurred at the rear of the complex's Spotlight store. All Spotlight staff have since been accounted for.

Emergency services have closed the shopping centre and are not allowing anyone to enter.

A second business owner said she saw the crash from the freeway on her way to work.

"I actually saw the explosion. I was coming off the freeway and I saw this huge explosion," she said.

"There were flames coming out of the roof and all this black smoke."

ABC radio caller Jason was in a taxi when he looked out the window and saw what he thought was a twin-propeller plane.

"I saw this plane coming in really low and fast. It went just behind the barriers so I couldn't see the impact but when it hit the building there was a massive fireball," he told ABC 774.

"I could feel the heat through the window of the taxi, and then a wheel - it looked like a plane wheel - bounced on the road and hit the front of the taxi as we were driving along.
"We kept driving and there was big fireball behind us."

Witnesses have reported a fiery explosion, and plumes of thick smoke can be seen.

"There is constant explosions going off, there is black smoke billowing into the sky," one caller told 3AW on Tuesday.

Another witness, Paul, said the scene was "like the vision you see of an atomic bomb".

"Just a ball of flame going up in the air," he said. "It was just surreal to see it happening right next to you."

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A plane has crashed near direct factory outlet stores in Melbourne, with passersby reporting explosions and billowing black smoke. Twitter / @9NewsMelb

Mark lives nearby and has told ABC Radio Melbourne he witnessed the crash:

"I heard an unusual aeroplane noise and then I saw a long extended explosion and of course rushed outside and I knew exactly what is was straight away."

Jagdeep Karwal was driving to work when he passed the crash site minutes after the plane came down.

"When I was about two or three kilometres away from that crash point I saw a large amount of smoke coming out of that site," he said.

"There were lots of ambulances coming and police cars coming, we heard some explosions as well.

"I saw it minutes after it crashed."

Karwal said he managed to get through right before emergency services closed the freeway.

He initially thought the smoke was coming from a fire at the airport.

Pilot radar websites indicate the plane is a Beechcraft B200 Super King Air registered VH-ZCR.

Photo / Channel Nine
Photo / Channel Nine

That plane is operated by Australian Corporate Jet Centres located at Essendon Aircraft.

They say they are "unsure" if it is their plane.

Ambulance Victoria said officers did not yet have details of any injuries.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade prepare to launch a drone to assist crews on the ground at DFO Essendon. Photo / Facebook
The Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade prepare to launch a drone to assist crews on the ground at DFO Essendon. Photo / Facebook

The crash has thrown Melbourne traffic into chaos, with the nearby Tullamarine and Calder freeways closed.

"Exit early and avoid the area. Expect heavy delays on all detours," VicRoads warned.
Meanwhile, internet access to the Essendon Airport website has been disrupted and is crashing intermittently.

The Essendon DFO wasn't due to open to customers until 10am.

DFO has released a statement advising the complex would stay closed following the incident.

"DFO Essendon is currently closed, after an incident in which a light plane crashed into the rear of the Homemaker Centre this morning. The Centre was not open at the time," it said.

A large exclusion zone is in place keeping media and the public away from the DFO.
Early witness accounts suggest the aircraft had just taken off.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the national transport safety investigator, says it has commenced investigating the crash and has appealed for witnesses to come forward.

-with AAP