San Diego

Brother Remembers Pilot Killed in Plane Crash as ‘Superior Person'

It appears the pilot attempted to use a parachute because one was deployed but did not open, an SDFD battalion chief said.

One person died Wednesday in the crash of a small plane northeast of an airport in Kearny Mesa. 

John Harvey Serocki, 61, a doctor from Del Mar, was piloting a newer model single-engine plane from Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport when for unknown reasons the plane crashed into a building under construction near the intersection of Balboa Avenue and Ruffin Road at approximately 6:30 a.m., the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office said. 

There were no reports of injuries to anyone on the ground at the business, according to a spokesperson for San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. 

Battalion Chief Grace Yamane said two or three witnesses reported the plane was traveling from the west to the east shortly before the crash.

The plane was at “tree-top level, did not get any lift, rolled and then shortly after crashed,” Yamane said. 

The wreckage could be seen from Newschopper 7 in a dirt area near several buildings a few hundred yards from the edge of a runway at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport. 

Serocki, an orthopedic surgeon, was headed to Yuma, Arizona, where one of his three offices is located, the FAA said. He also practices at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and at Otay Lakes Surgery Center in Chula Vista, according to his personal website.

John's younger brother Robert said that John was a great person who loved to help people.

He said early in John's career, John went to Nepal to help treat underprivileged children. He was also a member of Doctors Without Borders and traveled to Haiti after a devastating earthquake rocked the island in 2010.

John, a graduate of the University of California, San Diego's school of mechanical engineering, even volunteered at a pet hospital, according to Robert.

“He was a really superior person and anyone would be proud to have him as a brother," Robert said.

Robert also said that John loved to stay active by surfing, hiking and running marathons.

To Robert, it never seemed as though John absolutely loved to fly. Instead, it seemed to him like he did it just because it was fast and easy travel.

Robert said he had no knowledge of any previous issues his brother John had with his plane.

It appears John attempted to use a parachute because one was deployed but did not open, Yamane said. 

Andrew Cove was on his way to work and sitting in his car at a nearby stoplight when he noticed the plane.

“I saw the plane going up and all of a sudden it got all quiet and then I see it going nosedive right into the ground,” he said.

Cove said he could not hear the engine of the plane when it crashed.

He and his co-worker pulled into a nearby parking lot to see if they could help.

“There was just no chance,” he said. “All you could see was wreckage.” 

Phylinda Clark Brown works nearby. She didn’t see the crash but heard it and thought it was a large machine at a nearby building. 

“I heard a loud impact,” Clark Brown said. “I thought it was across the street. There’s a lot of big machines and I thought they fell over.”

She added that with the time of day, as people were arriving to work, it is fortunate that no one on the ground was struck by the plane.

The crash was located west of Interstate 15 and east of State Route 163.

Traffic was closed on Ruffin Road between Ridgehaven Court and Balboa Avenue for an unknown duration.

Officials with the FAA and the NTSB were investigating what caused the crash.

Earlier this month, a couple married 48 years died when their single-engine Cessna 182T crashed in Santee

John Longhurst, 70, a doctor and professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and his wife Cherril Longhurst, 71, were pronounced dead at the scene, less than a mile from Gillespie Field on Feb. 6. 

A cause has not yet been determined in either plane crash. 

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