Santee

‘Low Altitude Alert, Climb Immediately': Air Traffic Control Audio Details Minutes Before Santee Plane Crash

According to flight data, Das was about a minute from reaching his intended destination when the pilot looped

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What to Know

  • On Oct. 11, 2021, a doctor piloting a twin-engine Cessna C340 crashed at around 12:15 p.m. in a neighborhood in Santee in east San Diego County, destroying two homes and a UPS truck
  • The plane was headed to San Diego from Yuma, Arizona; according to its flight path, it was supposed to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa but never made it
  • At least two people were killed in the deadly plane crash: The pilot, Dr. Sugata Das, and the driver of the UPS truck, Steve Krueger

Communication between an air traffic controller and the pilot of a small plane along with its flight path records give a look at the moments before the twin-engine Cessna C340 crashed into a Santee neighborhood on Monday.

Dr. Das was coming from Yuma, Arizona and was scheduled to land at Montgomery Field Airport in San Diego but the pilot would never reach his destination. The "why" is still under investigation but the radio communication gives some insight into the moments before the deadly crash.

According to flight data, Das was about a minute from reaching his intended destination when the pilot looped to the right, seemingly in an attempt to divert to Gillespie Field, though it is not clear if that was the pilot's intended destination.

Once the plane veered off course, an air traffic controller tried to contact Dr. Das, referring to his tail number as "gulf" or "22 gulf."

Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane

air traffic controller to Dr. Das

"Gulf, it looks like you're drifting right of course. Are you correcting? Correcting 22 gulf."

The communication shows Dr. Das did not respond once air traffic control was in contact. Without a response to routine communications, the controller tells the pilot to ascend.

"It looks like you're descending sir, I need to make sure you're climbing not descending," the air traffic controller says urgently. "Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane, maintain 5,000. Expedite climb, climb the airplane please."

A balcony security camera recorded the moment a small plane crashed into a San Diego neighborhood just blocks from a high school, killing at least two people and destroying several homes.

Shortly after, at about 12:15 p.m. Monday, the plane crashed near the intersection of Greencastle and Jeremy streets just east of Santana High School. Dr. Das and a UPS driver identified as Steve Kreuger were found dead in the wreckage.

Several others were injured and two homes were destroyed, including that of a newlywed couple who had just made the purchase. At least another five homes were damaged.

Smoke from the crash was visible above Santee and the surrounding communities. A photo tweeted out by @ouijacorn showed an inferno raging in one of the homes, a man who was possibly a neighbor standing nearby pointing a hose at the raging fire.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were on scene Tuesday morning combing through the wreckage to determine the details of the crash. With the investigation in its early stages, much is left to be released to the public.

The crash near Gillespie is not the first in Santee; three years ago, two people and a dog were killed when an aircraft came down in Santee in February. According to the NTSB, there have been four fatal plane crashes in the East County community, including the one in 2018. Six people have died in the incidents.

Photos: Small Plane Crashes in Santee, California

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