San Diego

Mother, Sister of Man Killed in Plane Crash Say He Wasn't The Pilot

Investigators say the Yorba Linda man killed in a plane crash Monday night in Oceanside was piloting the plane, but his mother and sister tell NBC 7 he wasn't the one behind the controls.

Raymond Allen Petty, Jr., 58, was inside a single-engine Piper Cherokee Warrior -- a plane with dual controls designed for flight training -- when the aircraft took off from Oceanside Municipal Airport just before 9 p.m. 

However, it wasn't until Tuesday morning at around 7:14 a.m. that someone passing through the area noticed the wreckage on the hillside and contacted Oceanside police, OPD spokesperson Tom Bussey said.

The plane crashed into a hillside less than a mile away from the airport, approximately 10 to 20 feet from the top of a ridge along State Route 76 near Canyon Drive. 

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into what may have caused the crash. The airport manager told NBC 7 Wednesday that thick fog created less than a mile of visibility at the time the plane departed. 

Petty's mother Betty and twin sister Brenda told NBC 7 Petty was a licensed pilot but wasn't certified to fly in those weather conditions. Petty was found in the left seat, the seat typically reserved for whoever is piloting the plane, but his family says he let his pilot registration lapse.

The man who survived the crash, who the Pettys only identified as Luke, is the more experienced and credentialed pilot, according to the family.

"Because he is certified to take off in that kind of weather, he probably had control," Brenda said.

Investigators with local fire and law enforcement agencies who first responded to the crash identified Petty as the pilot, but NTSB investigators have yet to make that determination.

By most accounts, the takeoff from the Oceanside Airport is a straight shot, but the Cherokee Warrior banked left and into the side of the ridge.

When Petty's family heard that detail for the first time, they were shocked.

"Did my brother have a heart attack or something?" Brenda wondered. "Was somebody incoherent because of some medical issue? I don't know. They have flown out of there many many times."

The plane was being stored in a hanger at Hawthorne Municipal Airport near LAX. That's where Brenda believes the two men were heading before the crash.

"I'm just numb. I don't know how else to explain it," Betty said.

Brenda says she hasn't shared what she knows with NTSB investigators yet.

"They took off last night and were making a left turn," NTSB investigator Tealeye Cornejo said Tuesday. "A witness heard what sounded like an airplane crashing."

NBC 7's Melissa Adan spoke with first responders who rescued a passenger from Tuesday's plane crash in Oceanside.

When firefighters and emergency personnel made their way to the site of the crash, they found Petty dead and Luke suffering from major injuries including broken bones and cuts to his face, Bussey said.

Cornejo says it was a high-energy takeoff, and the plane was traveling at a faster airspeed to get off the ground but may have failed to get above the cliff.

Luke told rescue crews the plane crashed over five hours before they were found, but the FAA confirmed he was trapped in the wreck for much longer.

He was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital by Mercy Air, fire officials said, and he remains hospitalized.

A former classmate of Petty said he graduated from Esperanza High School.

The plane is registered to two co-owners out of Vista. One of the owners confirmed to NBC 7 his plane was involved in the crash but didn't reveal any further details.

The NTSB said the plane will be removed from the crash site in the next few days.

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