Neigh­bors: Plane shook homes as it broke apart; 5 dead

The Tribune (SLO) - - State - BY AMY TAXIN

YORBA LINDA

A small plane shook homes and “sounded like a mis­sile” as it broke apart and rained chunks of metal into a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia neigh­bor­hood, ig­nit­ing a house fire that killed four peo­ple, wit­nesses said Mon­day.

The pi­lot, a re­tired Chicago po­lice of­fi­cer liv­ing in Ne­vada, also died Sun­day. In­ves­ti­ga­tors were col­lect­ing pieces of the plane that fell into homes across about four blocks in Yorba Linda, a com­mu­nity south­east of Los An­ge­les.

“The wit­nesses I’ve spo­ken with say that they saw the air­plane com­ing out of the clouds – it was still in one piece – and then they saw the tail break­ing off and then the wing break­ing off and then some­thing like smoke be­fore the air­plane im­pacted the ground,” said Maja Smith, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board.

Those wit­nesses did not re­port an ex­plo­sion while the twin-en­gine pro­peller­driven Cessna 414A was in the air, she said.

An­to­nio Pas­tini, 75, of Gard­nerville, Ne­vada, was the only per­son aboard, Or­ange County Sher­iff’s Lt. Cory Martino said.

Au­thor­i­ties were try­ing to iden­tify the peo­ple who died in the house, de­scrib­ing them only as two males and two fe­males. Martino said DNA may be re­quired be­cause of the con­di­tion of the bod­ies.

Two other peo­ple were hos­pi­tal­ized with mod­er­ate in­juries, he said.

Yorba Linda res­i­dent Dave Elfver said he was get­ting ready to go to a friend’s house to watch the Su­per Bowl when he heard a whin­ing sound “like a mo­tor­cy­cle go­ing a hun­dred miles per hour.”

“The whole house shook. I thought it was an earth­quake, but the whin­ing sound didn’t make any sense.”

Elfver, 75, said he ran to his back­yard and saw a house en­gulfed in flames. He ran to­ward it along with a crowd of neigh­bors, and only then he saw an air­plane wing in the street.

“I didn’t re­al­ize what it was un­til I ran around the cor­ner,” he said Mon­day.

Across the street, one of the col­umns of a neigh­bor’s home was col­lapsed and de­bris from the plane was strewn through­out the street. An­other home had bro­ken win­dows.

Shawn Winch, 49, said he was in his back­yard when he heard what “sounded like a mis­sile com­ing at my house.” He said he saw the plane veer off and de­bris fall­ing.

“It wasn’t in­tact,” he said as the plane came to­ward the neigh­bor­hood. “It was al­ready break­ing up.”

The air­craft, which can carry up to eight peo­ple, took off from the Fuller- ton Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port about 12 miles away, Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman Allen Ken­itzer said.

Pre­lim­i­nary radar data shows the plane reached about 7,800 feet and then rapidly fell, said Eliott Simp­son, a NTSB in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

The main cabin of the air­plane and one en­gine were found at the bot­tom of a ravine in the back­yard of a house, and the other en­gine made a hole in the street, Simp­son said.

The prop­erty where the fuse­lage ended up is about three houses down from the home that burned. It was not im­me­di­ately clear what set the two-story house ablaze.

A por­tion of the plane’s right wing had not been found, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors would search the burned house, Smith said. The Cessna 414A car­ries fuel in its wings.

Some tried to run into the burn­ing house, but ex­plo­sive sounds came from its garage and neigh­bors called them off, Winch said.

Clint Lang­ford said he was in his liv­ing room when he heard a fright­en­ing sound. “It’s the eerie, low rum­bling sound that keeps get­ting lower and louder. It was scary,” he said. “And then all of a sud­den boom. It shook the house.”

Video from news he­li­copters showed plane parts scat­tered on roofs and drive­ways. Smith said at least 15 homes had de­bris.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors will look into the main­te­nance record struc­tural in­tegrity of the air­craft, as well as the pi­lot’s record, Smith said. The wreck­age will be trans­ported to Phoenix, Ari­zona, for a foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion.

PAUL BERSEBACH AP

A Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board worker takes a photo of an en­gine that came to rest against a house in Yorba Linda on Mon­day. The de­bris field from a small plane crash a day ear­lier cov­ered sev­eral blocks with one home catch­ing fire. The pi­lot and four peo­ple on the ground died.

AMANDA LEE MY­ERS AP

Shawn Winch is in­ter­viewed on Mon­day about wit­ness­ing a plane crash near his home in Yorba Linda on Sun­day. Five peo­ple died and two were in­jured, au­thor­i­ties said.

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