The 75-year-old pilot and Nevada restaurant owner whose small plane broke apart and crashed into a Yorba Linda home, killing him and four people inside the residence, was carrying what authorities suspect are fake credentials identifying him as a retired Chicago police officer, officials said Tuesday.
The 1981 twin-engine Cessna 414A piloted by Antonio Pastini of Gardnerville, Nevada, nose-dived onto the 19000 block of Crestknoll Drive at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, about 10 minutes after departing from Fullerton Municipal Airport, according to National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Eliott Simpson.
Sheriff’s deputies at the crash scene found a Chicago Police Department badge and retirement papers on the pilot, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun.
After consulting with Chicago police Monday night, it appears the credentials may have been fake, according to Braun.
“The indications they gave us last night is they have no record of Antonio Pastini as a retired police officer and the credentials do not appear to be legitimate,” she said.
Sheriff’s officials were waiting further word from Chicago police, who were continuing to investigate the matter, Braun said.
An investigation was also continuing into the cause of the fiery crash.
Radar data indicate the plane made a left turn and climbed 7,800 feet before crashing into the two-story home, leaving the cabin in a ravine behind the house and debris scattered over four blocks, Simpson said.
Pastini, who was flying solo, died at the scene, along with two men and two women inside the house, Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Cory Martino said. The bodies of the four occupants of the home were badly burned, and they have yet to be positively identified.
Two injured victims were hospitalized with moderate burn injuries, and one firefighter suffered a minor ankle injury.
NTSB investigator Maja Smith told reporters that many witnesses reported seeing the plane’s wings and tail fall off before it crashed.
NTSB investigators combed the neighborhood gathering evidence and picking up the pieces of the aircraft, which were to be taken to a storage facility in Phoenix for further examination.
A preliminary crash report will be available in 10-14 days, Simpson said.
Torrance resident Julia Ackley, one of the pilot’s daughters, told the Los Angeles Times that her father was a veteran pilot who regularly flew to Southern California to visit her and other family members.
She told NBC4 that she left a message for her dad on Sunday night “and asked him to call me when he got home safely; the only call I got was from the sheriff’s department.”
“He’s been flying for over 50 years and this was a horrible tragedy and a freak accident,” she told Channel 4.
She said her father had four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
On Pastini’s Facebook account on Jan. 27, he discussed his volunteer work with Angel Flight, which provides airplane rides for the needy to get to doctor appointments.
“Now I want to help more of those who need help, so I have an idea,” he wrote. “You want to go flying? Want an easy trip somewhere? Coordinate with me so we can take a child for treatment or bring medicine or blood somewhere where it will save a life. Pay for the fuel and together I will take you where you want to go and we can help way more people. If you just save one person isn’t it worth it, and this way we can save many.”
In a Nov. 26, 2008, Nevada Appeal news article about a restaurant that Pastini owned at the time called Carson City Diner & Catering, he told the newspaper that he had retired after 21 years on the Chicago police force.
“I loved it,” he said. “I loved my friends, I loved where I lived, I loved Mayor (Richard J.) Daley.”
Pastini told the newspaper that after he retired, he moved to northern Nevada to get into the food industry, where he worked as a child with his mother, a chef.
His first restaurant, he said, was Chicago Express in Reno in 1986.
“A couple of cops came by and found out I used to be a cop too, and it became a cop hangout,” Pastini said.
The newspaper reported he opened three more locations and then sold out in the late 1990s after he was diagnosed with cancer. When he recovered, he got back into the restaurant business, the newspaper reported.
At the time of his death, he owned Kim Lee’s Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar. An employee who answered the phone at the eatery on Monday declined comment, citing the family’s wishes.
A candlelight vigil in memory of the crash victims will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Glenknoll Elementary School, 6361 Glenknoll Drive, according to Yorba Linda city officials.