At least two people were killed, including a UPS driver, and two others were injured after a small plane crashed into multiple homes and vehicles in a suburban Southern California neighborhood Monday, officials said.
USA TODAY was informed by Fire Chief John Garlow that the accident occurred just after noon in Santee. It is located about 20 minutes northeast of San Diego.
The plane, a twin-engine Cessna 340, struck several homes and multiple vehicles, including aUPS TruckGarlow stated that the house was severely damaged. He said that three homes sustained “major damage”, and that two of them were totally burned.
UPS has confirmed to USA TODAY in writing that an employee was killed in the accident.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the statement said. “We send condolences to all the others involved in this incident and their families.”
Two burn victims were brought to the hospital, according to Justin Matsushita (Deputy Fire Chief). He said that there were more victims and added: “It’s quite brutal.”
Authorities did not immediately release the identities of those killed or injured. According to a tweet from agency, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board was scheduled to arrive on the scene Tuesday morning.
The Associated Press reported that witnesses saw a retired couple being rescued in one of the two houses destroyed by fire in Santee. One month after the destruction of their other home, they were still there.
Jim Slaff, NBC 7 San Diego reported that his neighbor pulled his mother from the window of their burning house. He also rescued his stepfather from their backyard. The dog was apparently killed.
Slaff said neighbors told him the couple was “obviously shaken up but doing OK,” and taken to UC San Diego Medical Center. “It’s a war zone. It’s not even a house,” Slaff said after arriving at the scene.
The sheriff’s department was checking inside nearby homes, too, he said.
Matsushita indicated that it was believed the aircraft was a private plane flying from Yuma (Arizona) to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport, San Diego. Mastushita claimed that none of the passengers would have made it to safety.
A few minutes earlier, as the plane was less than a mile from the runway’s edge, an air traffic controller alerted him that the plane was too low. “Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” the controller tells the pilot in audio obtained by KSWB-TV.
The controller repeatedly urges the plane to climb to 5,000 feet, and when it remains at 1,500 feet warns: “You appear to be descending again, sir.”
KGTV-TV-TV was an ABC affiliate. It posted video it said received from a viewer. This shows the plane arcing up in the sky, then plummeting into the area in a burst.
Dr. Sugata Die was the one who owned the plane. He may have been the pilot. He worked at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, the hospital’s chief medical officer said.
Das, who was licensed as a pilot, lived in San Diego, and commuted from there to Yuma according to his website, which he directed. His two sons are his surviving children.
Jennifer Ward told USA TODAY she was sitting at home watching a movie when she felt the house shake.
Ward said, “I was afraid a tree would fall on my house.” One street away from Ward, the plane crashed. Ward stated that she drove down this road several times per day.
Ward’s home and Santana High School were hit by the plane. Students at Santana temporarily went into secure locations and were later released.
“All the kids at the school were really scared because they didn’t know what was going on, and the school was shaking, too,” said Ward, whose 15-year-old son attends Santana.
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The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating. An emergency evacuation center was established by the American Red Cross of Southern California at a nearby YMCA.
Garlow stated that Santee has been the site of other crashes in recent times. A crash in a commercial area in 2015 killed a pilot, he said. He said that a similar crash in a residential neighborhood 10 years earlier also resulted in the death of a pilot.
Contributing to The Associated Press