Election Section

Small plane
slams into
park crowd

By Andrew Bridges, The Associated Press
Friday July 05, 2002

Accident killed 3, injured 13 


SAN DIMAS — A small private plane struggling to gain altitude after takeoff crashed into a Fourth of July crowd at a public park, killing the pilot and two other people and injuring 13, some of them children picnicking with their families. 

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the crash “sounds completely like an accident” and Gov. Gray Davis said the pilot issued two mayday distress calls after takeoff from Brackett Field, a small airport near the park. 

“The wings clipped on the trees. It went nose first. Bodies flying all over the place,” said witness Javier Franco. He said two girls were trapped under the plane. 

“Other people took the bodies out of the plane. I can’t forget seeing the bodies on the ground,” he said. 

The pilot and a 12-year-old girl who was trapped beneath a wing of the plane died at hospitals, and one adult died at the crash site, said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Brian Jordan. 

Several of the injured were in critical condition, including children, and about half the victims had minor injuries, said fire Capt. Mark Savage. 

A passenger on the plane survived, said FAA spokesman Jerry Johnston. Firefighters said they were not sure how many people were on the four-seat plane. 

Scuba divers searched the lake to make sure there were no other victims, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy William Spear. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board also are investigating the crash. 

The twin-engine Cessna 310 crashed near Puddingstone Reservoir at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, where hundreds of people were barbecuing and celebrating the Fourth of July. The park is about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. 

People were setting up tents on the grassy area where the plane came down, said Frine Flores, who was picnicking about 300 feet away. She watched the plane crash between a picnic table and a red hammock that had been stretched between two trees. 

“It was just like a big roar before it crashed and then, I can’t even explain the sound at impact. It was like crunching of metal,” said Flores, 32, of Pasadena. “Everyone was just crying, as if it was their family that was traumatized.” 

By early afternoon, the scene was strewn with both the plane’s wreckage and the remains of holiday parties. Paper plates and cups were scattered across the ground. A child’s push scooter was propped next to a picnic table a few feet from the wreckage, and an airplane engine rested on a crumpled green lawn chair.