The tragic last minutes before a fatal crash on Monday near Montgomery Field were caught on tape.
Just before the plane crashed on Monday at Admiral Baker Golf Course south of Tierrasanta, the pilot, who is also the father of the three children who were on board, radioed the tower for help.
Gregory B. Crane, who was piloting the aircraft when it went down, was still in critical condition on Tuesday at Sharp Memorial Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Alicia Cresap. Sadly, Crane's three children -- Summer, 11; Tia, 10; and Austin, 8, remain in critical condition at Rady's Children's Hospital. A fifth passenger, a woman riding up front with Crane, was killed in the crash. Her name had not yet been released.
Soon after the control tower control cleared Crane for takeoff on Monday, he can be heard on the recording notifying ground control that, "Ah, we got a door open on Four-Yankee-Papa."
"Four-Yankee-Papa, are you declaring an emergency?" the control tower asks, then clears a runway for Crane without waiting to hear back.
"Montgomery, Four-Yankee-Papa coming around," Crane tells the air-traffic controller. "I got a door open."
Again Crane is asked if he is declaring an emergency.
"Yeah, I need an emergency," Crane replies before being cleared to land.
Next the ground controller informs Crane that he now has a choice between two runways to land on.
"All right, we're going to come back around and come down," Crane says.
After a short time, the ground controller appears to warn Crane.
"Yankee-Papa, low altitude, check your altitude immediately," the controller tells Crane. "You have an elevation of 427."
After getting no reply, the ground controller instructs Crane again to climb, but there is no reply.
"Four-Yankee-Papa, if you hear the tower, suggest you climb to 500," the tower tells Crane, apparently in vain. "Number Four-Yankee-Papa, suggest you climb immediately. You appear to be [descending] into the canyon."
The tower calls out again to Crane but hears only silence. A short time later, the tower asks an aircraft to scan the ground for a downed aircraft.
On Monday, crews from the National Transportation Safety Board worked to recover the door, which they said could be a key piece of evidence. Authorities said it was possible the door hit the plane's rear propeller when it came off, or possibly changed the aerodynamics of the plane.