Two victims of a deadly Tuesday plane crash in Santee have been identified as a Corona Del Mar couple.
John and Cherril Longhurst's single-engine Cessna 182T was seen flying erratically in a fast, spiraling descent shortly after it took off from Gillespie Field before 7 a.m.
The plane crashed in a business yard on the 9700 block of Prospect Avenue less than a mile away from the runway, according to Heartland Fire and Rescue officials.
John, 70, and Cherril, 71, were pronounced dead at the scene. One of two dogs on board the plane was also killed in the crash.
The Longhurst's children, son Chris and daughters Dana and Jenny, issued a statement regarding the loss of their parents. They called John and Cherril their "biggest cheerleaders."
"Our hearts are truly broken by the loss of our parents They were our biggest cheerleaders, loved and supported us, and family meant everything to them. We ask for privacy at this time as we mourn their loss," the statement read.
John was a doctor and professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, and served as the Director of the university's Center for Integrated Medicine from 2001 to 2014.
"The UC Irvine community is deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. John and Cherril Longhurst," UCI School of Medicine Dean, Dr. Michael Stamos, said. "John was a respected colleague and beloved member of our faculty. A cardiologist who specialized in cardiovascular disease and prevention, John helped deepen the understanding of acupuncture as a clinical tool to treat hypertension. His contributions to UC Irvine and the medical community are immense, and he and Cherril will be profoundly missed. Our deepest condolences go to their family."
A high school student driving nearby at the time of the crash said she noticed a plane coming in the wrong way that "looked weird."
“It looked like it was coming right at us,” Alexis Hill said. “It looked like it was going to come down on us so we pulled over.”
She and her brother Zachary Hill didn’t hesitate to try and help those on the plane.
“It was really frightening,” Zachary said. “The whole front of the plane is destroyed. It’s really frightening.”
Alexis said she turned off the car and ran to help.
“You don’t want to walk away from something like that or just stand there,” she explained.
“If anyone ever needs help and you’re the only one there, you don’t want to walk away from something like that,” Alexis said.
No one on the ground was injured.
Witnesses said people on the ground reported hearing the plane's engine throttle before the crash, Smith said.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there have been 21 aviation-related accidents and collisions involving planes that were taking off from, or attempting to land at, Gillespie Field, in the past ten years.