SANTA ANA (CBS SF/AP/CNN) — The CEO of a San Francisco real estate company and four others died when a private plane he was piloting crashed into a Southern California parking lot, according to the Orange County coroner.
The coroner identified the five plane crash victims as 53-year-old Scott Shephard, the pilot and CEO of San Francisco-based real estate company Category III; his wife, Lara, 42; Floria Hakimi, 62; Navid Hakimi, 32 and Nasim Ghanadan, 29.
Lara Shephard, Floria Hakimi and Nasim Ghanadan all worked for Pacific Union Real Estate in the Bay Area.
Hakimi was a woman who made people smile. But on Monday, those who knew her were battling tears.
“It really is a huge void and a loss, because she was such a contribution,” said longtime friend Mojdeh Saleh. “She touched many peoples’ lives.”
“Floria was a pillar of this neighborhood and of this community. She had boundless energy. She was super positive,” said neighbor Jennifer Bauer.
Brian Moggan, form Pacific Union’s Danville office where the three women worked, said the firm was stunned.
“We are absolutely devastated this morning,” he told KPIX 5. “We began to get news of the tragedy yesterday afternoon…It’s a devastating loss. It’s three of the most beautiful people that we know. All extraordinary people who were going to a conference to further their knowledge and business. It’s just do sad.”
He said Lara Shephard had only been with the firm for about a year.
“She was a wonderful mother (of two children, ages 5 and 7),” Moggan said. “She was a joy to be around.”
Pacific Union CEO Mark McLaughlin said in a press release that the agents gathered to remember their colleagues.
“At our meeting today there were tears and sorrow, joy, disbelief and feelings of loss,” he wrote. “Stories were told about our teammates that inspired amazing laughter, a sense of pride, and lots of tears.”
Officials said Scott Shephard who was piloting the Cessna 414 when he declared an emergency before crashing about a mile from John Wayne Airport. The plane was heading to the airport southeast of Los Angeles when it came down into the parking lot at the South Coast Plaza Shopping Center and struck an unoccupied parked car, said Orange County Fire Authority Captain Steve Concialdi.
The NTSB says Shephard did send out a distress call, but didn’t say what his emergency was aboard the Cessna 414.
“With the pilot, we’ll be looking at his currency,” said NTSB spokesperson Jack Vanover. “With the airplane, we are going to be looking at the records that are associated, and with the environment. We’ll see if any of those factors played a part in this accident.”
There was no fire and nobody on the ground was hurt, he said.
NTSB investigator Albert Nixon said Scott Shephard declared an emergency, but never stated the nature of the problem.
“We are going to look at all the facts that would end of in a situation like that (the plane nosedived straight into the ground),” he said.
Meanwhile, witnesses were stunned by what they saw.
“I was working and I hear a loud thud,” said Christian Tornero, who worked at a store in the area. “I thought it was like a semitruck that just tipped over or something.”
A woman shopping nearby said it sounded like a truck was running something over—until she saw the plane.
“There was just nothing left and you could smell the gas,” Kathy Hayden said.
According to O.C. Fire Authority, a group of firefighters having lunch across the street jumped on their truck and rushed to the scene after one of them heard screaming.
“And somebody — one of the patients — yelled, and they looked up and saw the plane coming down towards the parking lot,” agency spokesman Steve Concialdi said.
Photos from the scene showed the plane upright but on its belly. Several roads surrounding the shopping center and the South Coast Plaza mall across the street were closed.
The plane is registered to Category III, according to an FAA database. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash, Salac said.