El Cajon

Details Emerge About Aircraft, Victims Involved in Fiery Plane Crash Near El Cajon

Crashed plane is linked to air-ambulance company Aeromedevac

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More information became available Wednesday about who was onboard a Learjet that crashed in a fireball near El Cajon and about the aircraft's operation that night.

The crash occurred on the roadway of Pepper Drive near North Mollison, a couple of miles east of Gillespie Field, said Lakeside Fire Protection District Chief, Don Butz.

An address linked to the registration number of the crashed plane belongs to an office and hangar at Gillespie Field for High Performance Aircraft. On Tuesday, workers at the site in El Cajon told NBC 7 they work with a company called Aeromedevac and that the company is "still handling what happened" and "talking to all the families."

NBC 7's Alexis Rivas reports on the owner of the small jet, what it was doing Monday night and who might have been on board.

Also on Tuesday, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office said it will take several days before they release the victim names but, based on Aeromedevac's website, there's reason to suspect all four may have been local residents.

The Oceanside Fire Association posted on their public Facebook page that one of the victims, Tina Ward, was a nurse, and the wife of their retired fire chief.

“It is with heavy hearts that the Oceanside Fire Department and their fire family would like to extend our deepest condolences to our recently retired Chief Ward, his family, and all family and friends of the Aeromedevac flight crew N88OZ," the department said.

In a separate Facebook post, the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics said local union president Laurie Gentz had also died in the crash.

"President Gentz will be greatly missed by all who knew her and all who benefit from her selfless contributions to organized labor in the Greater San Diego area," the AIEP said.

It appeared that another medical transport jet was visible at the High Performance Aircraft hangar at Gillespie Field, with the door open and, next to it, was a parked medical transport truck.

NBC 7's Mark Mullen spoke with a former NTSB investigator and author of "Air Safety Iinvestigators" about the next steps in determining what happened in the deadly crash.

The Aeromedevac company is based in El Cajon and offers air ambulance and air-transport services for critical care patients. Its website, which has since been taken down, said that every aircraft is equipped with two pilots and two medical team workers, the same number of people aboard who died when the plane crashed.

NBC 7 found a social media post from 2019 that shows pictures of the plane — based on the tail number tail number N880Z — that crashed on Monday. Inside, a a patient bed is visible, as well as two seats in the cockpit.

According to Aeromedevac's website, both people in the cockpit had a lot of flight training. On similar aircraft, captains must hold an airline transport pilot license, and first officers must have at least a commercial pilot license.

Also on Tuesday, the FAA confirmed in a preliminary report that there were two crew members and two passengers killed in the crash.

In a separate report, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the Learjet 35A was on an instrument approach to Runway 17 at Gillespie just before crashing at 7:14 p.m. However, as the aircraft drew near the airport, the pilot asked to switch to a visual approach to Runway 27R, and was quickly granted approval.

The plane, however, came down 1.4 miles from the beginning of the runway, according to the NTSB, which said three of its investigators had been assigned to investigate the crash.

The NTSB's final report on the crash, "including the probable cause and any contributing factors, is expected to be completed in 12 to 24 months," officials said.

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