Student Killed in Plane Collision
Nov. 26, 1997
EL CAJON, California (AP) _ A bouquet of flowers was placed among the twisted metal wreckage in the back yard _ a silent tribute to a British student pilot who died when two small planes collided over a hilly, residential neighborhood.
Mark Francis was killed Tuesday when his plane dropped from the sky just east of San Diego. The Cessna 172N smashed through the roof of an El Cajon home after it collided with another plane. Both apparently had just taken off from nearby Gillespie Field.
Bill Larkin, 47, was working in his yard when he saw Francis' plane hit a yellow Cessna.
``As soon as they crunched, one of them fell immediately,'' he said.
The yellow Cessna 152 with a student pilot and flying instructor aboard had been practicing touch-and-go landings at Gillespie when it apparently was hit by Francis' plane, said El Cajon police Lt. Dick Nasif.
``They didn't have enough time to avoid the other plane,'' Nasif said.
Francis, 25, a mechanic for the British Royal Air Force from South Wales, was here attending a pilot training program, a county Medical Examiner's Office spokesman said. He was not married and had no children.
The yellow Cessna managed to fly over a residential canyon and skidded to an emergency landing across Fanita Road, downing a street lamp and crashing into a wire fence at the base of a huge embankment where a highway is being built.
The female instructor, Daniele Boettcher, 19, emerged from the Cessna a few moments later. She was not injured. Her male student, Robert Blanken, 33, was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital for observation, according to hospital spokeswoman Marina Angeles. She said he had no external injuries.
The occupants of the damaged house were not home and no one on the ground was hurt in the 11:35 a.m. accident. Authorities estimated damage to the house at about $60,000.