‘They Will Always Be Heroes': Vigil Honors El Cajon Plane Crash Victims

The four victims were recognized with the United States honor flag at the vigil

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Nearly a week after the plane crash, hundreds of friends, family and neighbors came together as one community. 

“I’ve been lighting a candle every single day since the accident in hopes that everyone knows that the lives that were lost weren’t in vain,” said Susan Deanda, neighbor.

Each candle is lit to represent hope amidst an unthinkable tragedy.

“I know how much everyone loves them,” said Mike Brown, AMR Crisis Advisor. “Both amazing girls. And the pilots, I didn't get a chance to know the pilots, but everyone loved them as well. [You can] clearly see by the people that are here.”

Julian Bugaj, Laurie Gentz, Douglas Grande, and Tina Ward an air ambulance crew were flying back from John Wayne Airport in Orange County. They were approaching Gillespie Field in El Cajon when the plane crashed.

“It was scary, we were just sitting there eating dinner, talking and there was kind of a whole lot of orange that went through the window and I was like, ‘What was that?’ recalled Brandy Kelly, neighbor. “My mom went out the back door, I went out the front door when all of a sudden there's another shot of orange, it shook the whole house, the power went out and as soon as I came out there was just flames and smoke shooting up.”

Kelly’s home is just feet away from where the plane came crashing down.

“They are definitely my family’s heroes,” said Kelly. “I am so sorry to their families, that they had to lose them but I cannot say how thankful I am that they let me have my kids still here with me.”

Heroes - a resounding sentiment across the hundreds present at the vigil.

“In my eyes, they will always be heroes,” said Deanda.

The four victims were recognized with the honor flag at the vigil. The United States honor flag is the single American Flag that travels the country to honor the heroes killed in the line of duty in law enforcement, fire, and the military.

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