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2 dead after plane crashes into home and bursts into flames

It appeared the pilot tried to land the plane in the open space of the schoolyard and adjacent park, the chief said

By Kristina Davis, Pauline Repard and John Wilkens
The San Diego Tribune

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A single-engine plane with four people aboard crashed into a Clairemont home and burst into flames Saturday, killing two passengers and destroying the house, authorities said.

The accident occurred about 4:35 p.m. when the Beech B36 Bonanza crash-landed in the baseball field of Lafayette Elementary School and skidded into the back of a home on Chandler Drive near Mt. Abernathy Place.

Neighbors said a family with a baby are renting the house. They were not home at the time. Their two dogs perished inside the house, neighbors and authorities said.

The six-seat plane took off from Montgomery Field, a half-mile to the east, about 4:30 p.m., and shortly after the pilot radioed an engine failure, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy. The pilot reported an attempt would be made the land back at the airport.

It appeared the pilot tried to land the plane in the open space of the schoolyard and adjacent park, the chief said. The plane hit the ground upright and traveled 100 to 200 yards, plowed through at least one fence, then smashed into the house.

Neighbors heard a loud explosion, saw flames and called 911 to report a house fire. Fennessy said firefighters didn’t know a plane had crashed until they got to the house and saw it.

The plane and back of the house were engulfed in flames by then and no rescue was possible of two people trapped in the aircraft, the fire chief said.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said 50 officers headed to Chandler Drive, ready to help evacuate residents if the fire spread house to house.

Police officers saw a man and woman walking away from the fire, toward the park. Officers realized they were crash victims and got paramedics to assist them. The pilot and a passenger were taken to a hospital with burn injuries.

The names of the four victims were not released.

No one on the ground was injured.

Information on who owns the plane was also not available. The tail number burned up in the fire.

The street was lined with more than a dozen fire rigs for several hours.

The blaze was knocked down about 5 p.m. The home suffered extensive damage from both the fire and impact of the crash, the fire chief said.

Wade Treadwell, who lives on the street, said he was playing in nearby Olive Grove Community Park with his grandchildren when he heard a plane’s engine sputter.

The plane had just taken off, then turned, “like it was trying to get wind underneath its wings,” and then crashed, he said.

Donna Null, who lives across the street, said she heard an explosion and went outside, where she saw neighbors running toward the house.

Her son ran to the park and could see the tail of a plane sticking out of the house, she said.

Neighbors tried to get into the house, but said the doors were locked. They broke windows and began putting water on the flames from a garden hose until firefighters arrived.

Abe Bejjani, who lives next door to the house, said he was watching television when he heard a “big explosion” that he thought might have been a propane barbecue blowing up.

“All of a sudden, I see a big fire coming toward my house,” he said. He ran toward the flames and helped break the windows. They didn’t hear any cries for help or screaming, he said.

He went back and turned his hose on his roof to guard against embers setting it on fire, he said.

Bejjani’s daughter, Roula, said a firefighter brought over one of the dead dogs, known as Mr. Biggie.

“It could easily have been our house,” she said.

The FAA and National Transportation and Safety Board will be investigating what caused the plane to crash, officials said.

Copyright 2017 The San Diego Tribune


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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