Witness: San Jose-Bound Plane Nosedived Into Homes In Deadly Crash

RIVERSIDE (AP) — A man, woman and teenage girl were killed on Monday afternoon when a small plane bound for Mineta San Jose International Airport crashed into a home in Riverside, according to Riverside fire officials.

The plane’s two surviving occupants, two women between their mid 30s and early 40s, remain hospitalized after surgery Tuesday. One is listed as stable, while the other is in critical condition.

The plane had just taken off from Riverside Municipal Airport at 4:40 p.m. Monday intending to return to San Jose after the weekend cheerleading event at Disneyland when it crashed in the residential neighborhood, Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore said.

Riverside police say two of the deceased remain in the wreckage. One of the bodies was removed yesterday.

When the plane crashed into a home, there was a loud explosion followed by heavy smoke and huge flames.

One of the two survivors was ejected from the plane as it broke apart in the crash. She was found in a bedroom at the house and firefighters pulled her out through a window, Reynolds said.

The woman who was pulled through the window had suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of her body, according to Reynolds. She underwent surgery at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino on Monday evening, Moore said.

The other survivor was found on the front lawn near the wreckage and may have also been ejected in the crash. Neighbors helped firefighters to pull her across the street, away from the burning homes, Reynolds said.

The woman found on the lawn is being treated at Riverside Community Hospital for possible airway burns.

Police said it was incredible no one on the ground was hurt.

“Oh, it’s extremely remarkable. There was actually one person in this first house behind me at the time of the crash and they were able to get out unharmed,” said one Riverside police officer.

Witness Brian Marsh, driving nearby, said he saw plane’s wings nearly perpendicular to the ground as it made a turn moments before the crash.

“It looked like a stunt plane. (Then) it turned and went into a nosedive. All of a sudden it turned into a freefall,” he told the Press-Enterprise. “Flames were everywhere. Smoke was billowing out.”

Ken Sampson told the newspaper the flames shot so high that he could see them from his house six blocks away.

Three bodies, all from the plane, were found in the wreckage of the aircraft and the homes.

“It’s horrible,” Moore said, especially given that they had gone to a cheerleading competition and it was “supposed to be a happy time.”

Authorities initially said four people died, and that the critically injured victim was a resident of the homes. They later reduced the death toll to three and said all five victims had been on the plane. They have not given the ages or identities of the victims.

All residents of the destroyed homes have been accounted for, Moore said.

Moore did not provide the name of the cheerleading competition, but the Jr. USA Nationals for girls age 15 and under was held at Disney California Adventure Park over the weekend.

The two homes that were hit directly were destroyed, and there was minor damage to neighboring houses, Moore said.

The plane broke into hundreds of pieces, its propeller sitting on the roof of a nearby home, and the fire burning with jet fuel was still ablaze several hours after the crash. Firefighters found plane pieces about a half-mile away.

H.L. Reyes, who lives about a quarter-mile from the crash site, told The Associated Press she felt the ground shake and saw plumes of black smoke.

“I thought it was a possible earthquake, and we heard all the birds just suddenly react outside, too,” Reyes said. “This was just like a nightmare coming true.”

Shannon Flores, a teacher at an elementary school about three blocks away, said she saw the plane out her classroom window. She said it was raining during the crash, though other witnesses said the rain was very light.

“As soon as we saw it fly over, we knew it wasn’t a good thing,” Flores told KABC-TV. “We watched it go down very quickly … Before we knew it, there was a loud crash and huge plumes of smoke.”

Two houses have been red-tagged and two others have smoke damage and minor damage to the exterior. Power had gone out in the area because of the crash but was restored Monday night to all but the four affected homes.

The people who live in surrounding homes were able to return to them Monday night.

Of the 14 people displaced by the damage, nine are receiving housing assistance from the American Red Cross and five are staying with family members, Riverside City Councilman Mike Soubirous said.

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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