San Diego County

NTSB Investigators Arrive in Santee to Probe Deadly Plane Crash

A doctor piloting the aircraft and a UPS employee on the ground were killed in the crash

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Three investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived in Santee on Tuesday to look into the deadly plane crash that killed two people, injured at least two others and stunned the East San Diego County neighborhood.

Thick plumes of smoke emitted from the fiery crash Monday after a twin-engine Cessna C340 descended from the sky and barreled into two homes near the corner of Greencastle and Jeremy streets around 12:15 p.m., killing the aircraft's pilot and a UPS employee in his delivery truck.

NTSB officials will be assessing the scene of the crash, gathering as much information as possible to determine what caused the tragedy.

"Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, airplane maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records," a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement. "NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation."

The NTSB spokesperson said a preliminary report on the investigators' findings is expected to publish Oct. 26 -- 15 days after the crash.

"At this early stage of an investigation, NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available," the spokesperson's statement continued. "Investigations involving fatalities, and other major investigations currently take between 12 and 24 months to complete."

While NTSB officials perform their investigation, several road closures will be in effect for the majority of the week, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department (SDSO). The following roads will be shut down through Thursday:

  • Jeremy Street at Greencastle Street;
  • Jeremy Street at Grand Fork Drive;
  • Jeremy Street at Kincaid Street.

The pilot of the ill-fated flight was identified Yuma Regional Medical Center cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das, according to the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bharat Magu. A family friend told NBC 7 that Das worked at the YRMC in Arizona but lived in San Diego, flying back and forth frequently.

Magu described Das as an “outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man.”

“…Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy,” Magu said in a statement. We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues and friends during this difficult time."

A doctor piloting a small aircraft and a UPS employee in his delivery truck were killed in a plane crash in Santee. NBC 7’s Audra Stafford has the latest on the tragedy.

The tragedy also claimed the life of a UPS driver who was in the neighborhood, the delivery company said. In a letter sent to employees, UPS identified the late driver as Steve Krueger, who worked for the company for 30 years.

“Our employees and Steve’s family need to know that he will always be remembered by his UPS family,” the delivery company said in its letter. It asked its workers to honor Krueger with a moment of silence at 12:14 p.m. Tuesday

A spokesperson for the company said one of its trucks was clipped by the plane and confirmed the driver inside had died at the crash scene.

“We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," UPS said in a statement. "We also send our condolences for the other individuals who are involved in this incident, and their families and friends."

NBC 7's Omari Fleming shares what we know about the pilot so far.

The plane was headed to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa from Yuma International Airport in Arizona when the crash occurred, according to the flight plan. In audio of Das' exchanges with Air Traffic Control about a half-mile from the runway, a controller can be heard telling the pilot that his plane was too low.

NBC 7's Mark Mullen shares Air Traffic Control audio that explains some issues the pilot was having on his way to the runway.

“Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” the controller told Das.

The controller repeatedly urges the plane to climb to 5,000 feet, and when it remains at 1,500 feet warns: “You appear to be descending again, sir.”

The crash happened in a residential area of Santee, just a few blocks from Santana High School.

Neighbors recalled how the impact of the crash shook their homes, startling them in the afternoon.

Photos: Small Plane Crashes in Santee, California

“My initial thought was that it was a meteorite coming down," Santee resident Andrew Pelloth said. "I could hear it falling and then some kind of explosion.”

Pelloth lives across the street from the two houses that were destroyed by the plane, one of which was occupied by its residents at the time. Neighbor Mike Bohen told NBC 7 he saw locals rush to the home where the retired couple, Phil and Maria Morris, lived after it was engulfed in flames due to the crash.

Michael Keeley ran barefoot outside when he felt the impact. He recalled seeing the destruction left by the crash and ran to the Morrises’ home after hearing them call for help. Keeley stood on a rock and reached through a window to grab Maria’s arm in order to help her climb out.

Maria Morris’ son said good Samaritans also rescued his stepfather, Phil, from the backyard. The pair was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center for injuries they suffered.

The home next door to the Morrises was also destroyed by the crash. A woman at the scene said it belongs to her younger brother and added that it was unoccupied at the time.

"We are very, very, very lucky they were not home," Breana King said. "Their dog wasn't there, so even their dog is safe. At this point, I am very eager to hug my little brother."

Authorities said at least five more homes were damaged in the crash.

Details on what led up to the tragedy remain unclear. Donnell Evans, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said the crash is under investigation.

"We do not yet know how many people were on board," Evans said in an email. "The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates."

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