El Cajon

Four Victims of Fiery Learjet Crash Near El Cajon Are ID'd

Two crew members and two flight nurses were killed in the crash Monday about 1.4 miles from the runway at Gillespie Field

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The names of the two crew members and two nurses on board the aircraft that came down in unincorporated El Cajon on Monday night are now known.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office said Wednesday that Douglas James Grande, 45, and Julian Jorge Bugaj, 55, were killed when the Learjet 35 they were aboard and crashed in the 1200 block of Pepper Drive at 7:14 p.m. on Monday.

NBC 7's Brooke Martell shares what we know so far about the people killed when a Learjet crashed in a neighborhood near El Cajon.

Also killed in the crash of the Aeromedevac air ambulance were flight nurses Laurie Gentz and Tina Ward, who have been identified by grieving friends and colleagues. The county confirmed their identities on Thursday.

Mariana Aliano, the vice president and treasurer of International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, Local 162, worked closely with both of the nurses and said they were highly experienced.

“Not just regular nurses, they both had really high standards, they both took it very seriously,” Aliano told NBC 7.

NBC 7's Brooke Martell has what we know so far about the four people killed when a Learjet went down near El Cajon.

Gentz, who served as union president for several years, leaves behind her husband, a retired pilot and her three dogs.

Ward is survived by three grown daughters and her husband of many years, a retired Oceanside deputy 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 Oceanside Firefighters Association said, sharing a photo of Ward with her husband.

“Always a working mom but did everything for those three girls,” Aliano said. “They were involved in sports, full-time mom, full-time nurse. They were both just full-time kind, good people.”

All four worked for Aeromedevac Air Ambulance, according to the El Cajon-based company. On Wednesday, Aeromedevac posted the following statement on its website:

“It is with great sadness that we must share the devastating loss of our colleagues at Aeromedevac Air Ambulance on December 27, 2021. The loss of our friends has left us an indescribable void. To both us and their families they are unsung heroes, dedicating their lives to caring for others in need throughout our community. Our priority now is to support the well-being of the families of all our crew members. We are a close-knit air ambulance program that is united by our missions to care for our patients. Our team’s commitment to helping others has always been inspiring. We are honored and blessed to have worked with the crew members that we have lost, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families.

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 medical examiner is not expected to officially identify the remaining two victims for some time, an official told NBC 7.

The plane, which had made an earlier flight to Lake Havasu, departed John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was approaching Gillespie Field in El Cajon, about 78 miles to the south, when it crashed. Nobody on the ground was hurt.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating but didn't immediately release any information.

National Weather Service data described fog and mist at Gillespie shortly before the crash. Radio communications between the jet and the airfield recorded by LiveATC.net indicated that trouble happened suddenly.

The pilot canceled an instrument flight rules approach to one runway and requested a switch to another runway using visual flight rules.

After the switch was granted and new instructions were given, the pilot asked that the field lights be turned up and was told they were already at 100%. The pilot suddenly exclaimed three times and screamed.

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