Plane crash vic­tim ID’d

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS -

SANTA CLARITA (CNS) — The Los An­ge­les County Coro­ner’s of­fice, Tues­day, for­mally iden­ti­fied a vet­eran pi­lot who was killed when his homemade air­plane crashed near the North­bound An­te­lope Val­ley (14) Free­way at Ne­whall Av­enue in Santa Clarita.

Wayne Richards, 73, of Van Nuys, died at the scene of the fiery crash that oc­curred about 10 a.m., Satur­day. He was the sole oc­cu­pant in­side the sin­gle-en­gine air­craft.

Sev­eral avi­a­tion pub­li­ca­tions said Richards had been fly­ing since the mid1970s, was based at Van Nuys Air­port and had more than 4,000 hours of fly­ing time in air­craft sim­i­lar to the one that crashed.

Jen­nifer Pearl, one of the pi­lot’s friends, told re­porters she heard his dis­tress call, which was later posted on Twit­ter, where he can be heard com­plain­ing of vis­i­bil­ity prob­lems in the plane, im­me­di­ately prior to the crash.

Pearl de­scribed him as a “sweet and lov­ing man” who was very ac­tive in the avi­a­tion com­mu­nity and said his death was a “big loss.”

The plane crashed about five miles North of Van Nuys Air­port, af­ter de­part­ing from the air­field, ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman Ian Gre­gor, who de­scribed it as a “home­built TM-1 Thun­der Mus­tang.”

The Thun­der Mus­tang is a three-quar­ter scale replica of a P-51 Mus­tang, a U.S. World War II-era fighter plane, avi­a­tion ex­perts said. Any home­built air­craft must be in­spected by the FAA for air­wor­thi­ness be­fore its first flight like any gen­eral avi­a­tion air­craft, ac­cord­ing to FAA reg­u­la­tions.

Court­ney Gon­za­les, who was hik­ing in the area at the time, told re­porters she saw the plane clip a tree and crash near the free­way.

“The next thing we saw was a big black cloud of smoke,” she said.

Other wit­nesses in the area also re­ported see­ing plumes of smoke near the free­way.

The cause of the crash re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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