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Gear Trouble Suggested in L.A. Crash

July 6, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The plane that crashed into a Fourth of July crowd at a suburban Los Angeles park had trouble deploying its landing gear about a month ago, the co-pilot’s son said Friday.

``They had a decent scare,″ said Greg Alder, whose 49-year-old father, Michael, was the co-pilot of the plane.

The elder Alder, 49, and pilot Michael Brand, 44, both of Glendora, died when the Cessna 310 crashed on the shore of Puddingstone Reservoir in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in suburban San Dimas.

Two children on the ground were also killed and more than a dozen were injured.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were at the park Friday, taking the wreckage to a crash site for nearby inspection.

Investigators said they will examine the plane’s engines to see if they were operating properly. The right engine sustained the most damage and the left engine showed signs of low power, officials said.

``Our focus over the next two days is going to be to examine the right engine to determine whether it was operating at the time of the accident,″ Jason Ragogna, an NTSB investigator.

Brand and Alder were taking the new plane out for a quick ride Thursday before joining friends and family to watch Fourth of July fireworks, according to Greg Alder, 25.

Almost immediately after takeoff, the plane crashed into a crowd of revelers, hitting a jittery region worried about Independence Day terrorist attacks and stunned by an earlier shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

The younger Alder said Brand bought the plane about a month ago, and had the landing gear problem during a test flight. After a few more tries, he was able to set the aircraft down safely.

Alder said his father, a plumbing contractor, was also an experienced pilot.

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

Brand, a real estate agent, was a member of the Army National Guard and flew Black Hawk helicopters.

``He golfed and coached Little League. He was an all-around family man,″ friend Chris Wells said. ``We’re missing him. We’re trying to understand the whole situation.″

Also killed were Jackie Engo Ton, 12, of La Mirada, and a 16-month-old boy, Branden Truong of El Monte, the coroner’s office said.

An 8-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl remained hospitalized Friday.

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