The four-seater Reims Cessna F172N aircraft came down near a copse close to the hamlet of Wilfholme, on Wednesday evening, sparking a desperate search as farmers joined police to comb miles of open countryside.
An eyewitness, who lives around a mile from the crash site, was driving home when he saw the aircraft with its lights on, going round in circles and flying low.
The man, who did not want to be named, said: "It was pretty dark and it was going round in circles as if was looking for the airstrip.
"As I pulled into the drive there was a loud metallic bang. I just assumed it was the stable doors. There was no explosion or fire. Half an hour later the helicopter and ambulances came. It is a tragedy."
The aircraft, which was flying south from the Scottish borders, came down around a mile short of Beverley Airfield, near Leven, which is on the other side of the river Hull.
Local residents said it was unusual to see light aircraft at that time of night.
Search teams from Humberside Fire and Rescue, HM Coastguard and Yorkshire Air Ambulance, were also involved in the search.
Neighbour Keith Smith returned home around 10.30pm to find dozens of vehicles with police joined by farmers in Land Rovers and on quad bikes with search lights.
"At about 11pm or thereabouts the police helicopter seemed to focus on the trees and more vehicles gathered around that point and then it landed.
"They were searching everywhere and seemed to find it after four or four-and-a-half hours.
“I would have expected them to search there first, having said that they may have done so and missed it, I don't know.”
"About 11pm there seemed to be more police vehicles, including a marine unit which has a rubber dinghy, so we started to think 'has it gone into the water?'
"There are three waterways very close to each other. I am saddened that people have died."
Humberside Police said: "We are working with the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) who are investigating the light aircraft crash last night near to Leven in East Yorkshire last night
"Two people who were in the plane sadly died in the crash which was called in to us around 7.30pm.
"Their families have been informed and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
"An extensive multi-agency search was immediately launched across a large rural area to find the plane, which included numerous members of the public who offered their help.
"The plane was found in the corner of a field some distance away from the road.
"The aircraft was flying south from the Scottish Borders and came down near to the approach to the landing strip at Beverley Airfield.
"Information was passed on to us when the incident was first reported to indicate that the passenger and pilot were safe. As our search began and progressed, it became clear that while this information had been provided with good intention, it was not correct.
"The AAIB Inspectors are on scene and our officers are supporting their investigation."
An Air Accidents Investigation Branch spokesman said: “On Wednesday night an accident involving a light aircraft near Wilfholme village was reported to us. It was later confirmed that tragically both people on board died in the accident. The aircraft was a Reims Cessna F172N, which is a single-engine, four-seat light aircraft.
“Our team of inspectors travelled to site early this morning, arriving around lunchtime, and started gathering evidence. The field phase of the investigation will continue into tomorrow. We will then transport the aircraft to our facility in Farnborough where more detailed examination can begin while our investigation continues.”