A twin-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Long Beach Municipal Airport, exploding into flames on the airfield and killing five of the six people aboard.
The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air, owned by Long Beach developer Tom Dean, crashed and erupted in flames on the northwest portion of the airfield at 10:37 a.m., authorities said.
Eyewitness Cecy Romero captured the crash on video seconds after the plane went down. Her video was posted on YouTube.com Wednesday evening.
Authorities declined to immediately identify those on board, but a spokeswoman for a Long Beach city councilman told City News Service the dead included Dean, his partner in Studebaker Properties LLC, Jeff Berger; and Mark Bixby, a scion of the family for which Bixby Knolls is named.
Coincidentally, Bixby's company sold Studebaker Properties about 175 acres in the Los Cerritos Wetlands, and Studebaker later swapped 36 of those acres for a city maintenance yard.
The lone survivor is reported to be Mike Jensen, a commercial real estate broker who was taken to a hospital and listed in critical condition.
Mike Murchison, a longtime Long Beach-area lobbyist who worked as a spokesman for Dean, said he had known Bixby "ever since we were kids" and Dean and Berger for about 10 years.
"All of them have multiple children," Murchison said.
Murchison said the other two men killed were the pilot, whose last name he did not know, and Bruce Krall.
The group was flying to Salt Lake City and going skiing in the surrounding mountains. Murchison said he was invited to go, but he passed. He said he had spoken to some of the men's family member since the crash.
"It's just a tragedy," he said.
Mario Rodriguez, director of airport operations, said witnesses reported the plane getting off the ground, then banking hard in an attempt to return to runway 30. The plane apparently touched down on the runway, but then crashed, burst into flames and skidded across a turf section of the airfield, leaving scorched debris trail. The tail section of the plane broke off, and the remainder of the fuselage was burned over.
Steve Yamamoto of the Long Beach Fire Department confirmed that five of the six aboard died at the scene.
Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was headed to Salt Lake City. It was not immediately clear if the pilot made a radio call to the tower before turning back toward the airport.
The Beechcraft turbo-prop plane, first produced in the early 1960s and capable of cruising at close to 300 mph, is known as a high-quality executive plane. They cost about $3.4 million, depending on the model. President Lyndon Johnson used one to fly from Bergstrom Air Force base near Austin, Texas, to his family ranch.