Victims were on test flight when plane crashed in Merritt Island neighborhood

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MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. - Two men were killed when a plane crashed in a Merritt Island neighborhood Monday evening, officials said.

The falling Liberty XL-2 missed dozens of homes and landed in someone's backyard along Paula Avenue around 8 p.m.

"It could have been us, it could have been us," neighbor Rebecca Vannoy said.

Residents in the neighborhood are grateful more people weren't injured or killed in the crash, which claimed the lives of 47-year-old Jon Kish and 65-year-old Kenneth Marks.

"All of a sudden I heard a boom, crash. The house shook. Immediately thought was it a lightning strike," homeowner Kurt Smith said.

Smith went around to the side of his home, saw what had happened and ran over to help.

"I tried to communicate with them and no response. I didn't see any movement. By then, my other neighbor was there," Smith said.

The sheriff's office said the plane took off from the Merritt Island airport for a test flight. Marks was interested in purchasing the single-engine plane from Kish.

Now investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will inspect the plane's wreckage. The agency will also determine if there were any medical issues.

"Witnesses describe the airplane flying to 400 feet above the ground in an easterly direction and heard differing accounts. One heard no engine sound," NTSB investigator Tim Monville said.

"God must have been looking out for the neighborhood, I guess. That's all I can say," neighbor Al Kee said.

Both of the victims are licensed pilots. Officials said the investigation is ongoing.

Channel 9's Steve Barrett spent Tuesday at the Melbourne factory that built the Liberty XL-2, where he learned the aircraft has technology that could help investigators figure out why the plane crashed.


 Liberty XL-2 built at Melbourne facility

The small aircraft that crashed and killed two in Merritt Island was built just eight years ago in the Melbourne factory.

The plane is considered a high-tech plane that's easy to fly with plenty of safety features. Only about 150 have been built, each costing just under $200,000.

Liberty builds their aircraft in a nondescript warehouse, but no one in management was available to speak with Channel 9 on Tuesday, likely because company officials are working with the National Transportation Safety Board at the crash site.

Industry publications gave the Liberty XL-2 high marks when it debuted in 2006, the year the crashed plane was built.

Experts called the aircraft one of the safest and easiest piloting planes in the air. It also is one of the most fuel-efficient, experts said.

At this time, there's no word on whether lack of fuel contributed to the crash, but officials will investigate all possibilities.

The engine may have recorded data that helps pinpoint the cause.

NTSB officials were unable to give Channel 9 records about the safety of the XL-2.