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4 Die in Small Plane Crash Near L.A.

July 5, 2002

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (AP) _ A pilot, co-pilot and two people on the ground were killed when a small plane crashed into a park where hundreds of people were barbecuing and celebrating the Fourth of July.

Twelve people were injured, authorities said.

``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.″

The twin-engine Cessna 310 crashed near the shore of Puddingstone Reservoir at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles.

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 on a lake.

The plane broke in two after it crashed, witnesses said.

The plane came down in an area were four or five groups were picnicking, said Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

``It was total chaos,″ Brown said.

Another fire department spokesman, Brian Jordan, said the pilot, a 12-year-old girl who was trapped beneath a wing, and a toddler died at hospitals, and one adult died at the crash site.

A spokeswoman for Pomona Valley Hospital, Kathy Perkins, identified two of the victims as pilot Michael Brand, 44, and 12-year-old Jackie Ton. A 15-month-old boy died at Citrus Valley Medical Center of head injuries, Jordan said.

Co-pilot Mike Alder, 49, was the other adult killed, Los Angeles television station KTTV reported.

``He always wanted to fly planes and he had a friend that had a new plane and they were going to go flying today for something fun on a holiday,″ said his widow, Cindy. ``I’m certain that he died doing something that he loved to do so he just had a very good life.″

Several of the injured were in critical condition, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Mark Savage. About half the people had minor injuries, Savage said.

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.

Two 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 are investigating the crash.

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.

Frine Flores, who was picnicking about 300 feet away, said people were setting up tents on the grassy area where the plane came down. 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.″

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