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Plane Crash Called Likely Accident

July 5, 2002

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (AP) _ Richard Kang had just eased into his folding chair beside a lake, looking forward to a July Fourth picnic that he hoped would lift his family’s spirits following his mother’s funeral earlier in the week.

Hearing a noise in the distance, Kang looked up to see a small white airplane, apparently out of control, flying straight toward his crowded picnic area.

``We couldn’t get away,″ Kang said. ``We heard the noise and then boom! It hit.″

The twin-engine Cessna slammed into the ground at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in this Los Angeles suburb, killing four and injuring a dozen, including Kang and four relatives.

The accident hit a region jittery over Independence Day terror warnings and stunned by a deadly shooting about an hour earlier at Los Angeles International Airport.

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

The pilot and a passenger were killed, as were two children on the ground.

The airplane snapped the top off the tree next to Kang. Pieces of the tree and the plane showered down on the family.

``It landed right on top of us,″ said Kang, an automobile dealer.

Both people aboard the plane were killed: pilot Michael Brand, 44, and Michael Alder, 49, who was identified by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office as the plane’s co-pilot.

Also killed were Jackie Engo Ton, 12, and Branden Truong, 16 months old, coroner’s and hospital officials said.

Among the injured were two in critical condition.

The Cessna came down at midday as hundreds of people were barbecuing and celebrating Independence Day.

``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.

Onlookers rushed to help, lifting the wreckage off victims and applying CPR until rescue workers arrived.

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.

Kang, 54, his wife, Kyung, 49, and his brother, Sinyong, 51, were treated for minor injuries. His daughter Connie, 15, and sister, Duk Sun Kang, 52, were seriously injured.

The picnic was Kang’s brother’s idea _ to take everyone’s minds off their mother’s death.

``I’m so weak and my daughter is in the hospital and all my family ...,″ Kang said, his voice trailing off.

``I don’t know,″ Kang said. ``I just don’t know.″

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