San Diego County

NTSB Investigated At Least 35 Small Aircraft Crashes in San Diego Neighborhoods Since 2010

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The families on Greencastle Street in Santee are far from the first in San Diego County to watch their homes burst into flames and rubble after a plane crash.

NBC 7 Investigates scoured through more than 120 NTSB investigation reports and dug up at least 35 plane or helicopter crashes into San Diego County neighborhoods since 2010.

In those crashes, 30 people died and 20 others were seriously injured.

The airport connected to the lion’s share of those crashes is Gillespie Field in El Cajon – there have been at least 16 crashes in surrounding neighborhoods. After that comes Montgomery-Gibbs in Kearny Mesa with at least nine.

A neighbor's home security camera captured a plane going down in Santee. The plane crashed east of Santana High School killing at least two people.

It makes sense, Gillespie is one of the busiest small aircraft airports in our area with between 600 and 800 flights per day.

But where planes wind up when they crash, can be miles away from any airport. 

In 2010, a plane crashed into the trolley line in El Cajon. Over the years, several San Diego County freeways have turned into emergency landing strips, like we saw on Interstate 5 near Del Mar just two months ago.

A witness caught video of the moment the small plane went down and landed on the I-5 lanes in Del Mar. NBC 7's Mark Mullen and Catherine Garcia report.

A Santee homeowner saw his backyard turn into a crash site in 2015, as did a Clairemont Mesa homeowner two years later in 2017.

Crash sites have included school playgrounds, a Target parking lot, a crowded beach in Carlsbad on July 4, a golf course, near casinos and in office parks.

While sifting through the NTSB investigation records, NBC 7 Investigates flagged several crashes connected to Borrego Springs Airport. But we did not include those in our final analysis as we only focused on the five towered small aircraft airports in our county: Brown Field, Gillespie Field, McClellan-Palomar, Montgomery-Gibbs and Ramona.

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