Federal investigators continued sifting through the wreckage Wednesday of a business jet that departed Orange County and slammed into a residential neighborhood near El Cajon, while the second of four people who died in the crash was identified.
The Learjet 35A business jet, which seats eight people and took off from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, crashed at 7:15 p.m. Monday near the 1200 block of Pepper Drive and North Mollison Avenue in the unincorporated Bostonia neighborhood, near Gillespie Field airport. All four people aboard died. No injuries on the ground were reported.
The plane, owned by Aeromedevac Air Ambulance, was operating as an air ambulance, and according to various reports, the people aboard were two pilots and two nurses. Aeromedevac Air Ambulance, based in El Cajon, has not commented on the crash, but it posted a photo on its Facebook page Wednesday saying, “With a heavy heart we mourn the lives of our friends and our family.”
CBS8 reported that the plane had flown a patient from Arizona to Orange County before attempting its return trip to Gillespie Field.
On Tuesday, the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics via its Facebook page identified one of the crash victims as Local 162 President Laurie Gentz.
The IAEP “extends sincere condolences for the devastating and sudden loss of Local 162 President Laurie Gentz, her fellow passengers and the Learjet flight crew …,” the post stated. “President Gentz will be greatly missed by all who knew her and all who benefit from her selfless contributions to organized labor in the Greater San Diego area.” the IAEP wrote on the Facebook page.
The union representing Oceanside firefighters, meanwhile, reported that one of the victims was Tina Ward, a flight nurse and the wife of the department’s recently retired deputy chief, Joe Ward.
“It is with heavy hearts that the Oceanside Fire Department and their fire family would like to extend our deepest condolences to our recently retired Chief Ward, his family, and all family and friends of the Aeromedevac flight crew N880Z. Chief Ward’s wife, Tina, was a flight nurse on board of the aircraft that crashed last night in El Cajon,” Oceanside Firefighters Association 3736 posted on Instagram. “We are shocked and saddened by this devastating news and are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were leading the investigation into the crash.
The NTSB reported Tuesday that the plane was on an “instrument approach” to Runway 17 at Gillespie Field, but the pilot requested a change to a “visual approach” on Runway 27A.
“Shortly after air traffic control had cleared the airplane to land on Runway 27A, the airplane crashed into a residential area about 1.4 miles from the approach end of the runway,” according to the NTSB.
Federal investigators were expected to be on the scene for at least two more days. According to the NTSB, the plane was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder, but not a flight data recorder.
Anyone who witnessed the crash or has possibly relevant information was asked to contact the NTSB by emailing email@example.com.
Pepper Drive was expected to remain closed between Topper Lane and North Second Street through Wednesday, officials said.
The sheriff’s department tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office had cleared the crash site, and all road closures should be lifted by Wednesday evening.
The crash took down an unknown amount of power lines. San Diego Gas & Electric reported that seven customers in the El Cajon area were still without power Tuesday night, with power expected to be restored by 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The American Red Cross was providing assistance to residents who remain affected by the power outage, according to sheriff’s officials.
One home was damaged by the crash, but no injuries were reported on the ground.
Witnesses on the ground told reporters that the crash occurred in very poor weather conditions, amid rain and thick fog.