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Engines Considered in Park Plane Crash

July 6, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Federal investigators found signs that a small plane had low power in one of its two engines when it plunged into an Independence Day crowd in a park, killing both pilots and two children on the ground.

The findings were released Friday by National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jason Ragogna as the on-scene probe was completed and the wreckage of the Cessna 310 was hauled away for further study.

Investigators announced no conclusion from the signs that the left engine appeared to have been operating at low power. Ragogna said it was minimally damaged and did not lose its propeller.

Investigators plan to examine the right engine to determine if it was operating at the time of Thursday’s accident, he said. The right engine broke away on impact and skidded about 30 feet.

Pilot Michael Brand, 44, and co-pilot Michael Alder, 49, both of Glendora, Calif., died in the crash on the shore of Puddingstone Reservoir in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in suburban San Dimas. A girl and boy on the ground died and 12 people were injured.

The plane, which took off from nearby Brackett Field, was in trouble immediately as it crossed over the north end of the lake and park where hundreds of families were gathered for holiday barbecues and picnics.

Controllers saw the plane climb and then start a ``gradual descent,″ Ragogna said. Three mayday calls were made from the plane but did not state the problem.

Witnesses told the NTSB that the plane made a shallow left bank and flew parallel to the reservoir’s shoreline.

The left wing hit a tree and the plane pivoted to the left, hit a second tree and slammed into the ground.

Investigators found that the landing gear was extended at the time of the accident. They were also able to account for all elements of the airframe, eliminating the possibility of an in-flight breakup.

Alder’s son Greg, 25, said Friday that his father and Brand had a scare about a month ago when they went to test the Cessna, which Brand had just bought.

They were flying the plane when the landing gear initially failed to deploy properly, Greg Alder said. After a few more tries, they were able to set down safely.

``After that, they had a technician run through everything really carefully,″ the son said.

Greg Alder said his father ``was super, super cautious about everything. Often I’d say, ‘Let’s go flying,’ and he would say, ’No, there’s a cloud in the sky.‴

Killed in the crash were a 12-year-old girl, Jackie Engo Ton, and a 16-month-old boy, Branden Truong, the coroner’s office said.

An 8-year-old injured boy was in serious condition on a respirator in the intensive care unit of Los Angeles Children’s Hospital late Friday. A 15-year-old girl was upgraded from serious to fair condition at the hospital.

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