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Small plane crashes in California yard, killing pilot

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small plane crashed and caught fire Sunday in the backyard of a Southern California home, killing the pilot.

The single-engine Beechcraft BE35 went down at around 5 p.m. about a half-mile east of Riverside Municipal Airport, officials said.

The pilot radioed the airport shortly before the crash to report he had lost engine power and was going to make an emergency landing but added: “I don’t think I’m going to make it,” city fire Capt. Tim Odebralski told the Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1ImDAf0 ).

The plane narrowly missed two houses and landed upside down. It caught fire but the flames were quickly doused.

Nobody on the ground was hurt, Odebralski said.

The pilot was not immediately identified.

Richard and Doris Godfrey have lived in the house for more than 55 years.

“They were just sitting down to have dinner,” their son-in-law, Keith Burke, told the Press-Enterprise. “There was a crash, and the backyard was engulfed in flames — lots and lots of smoke.”

The home was undamaged but the backyard fence was destroyed.

“Either skillful flying … or just luck” kept the plane from hitting the house, Burke said.

“Our heart goes out to the family of the pilot and the loss they suffered this evening,” he said.

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