ARIZONA NEWS

Doctor from Arizona hospital killed when plane crashes near San Diego

Oct 12, 2021, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:23 am
Fire crews work the scene of a small plane crash, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Santee, Calif. At least...

Fire crews work the scene of a small plane crash, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Santee, Calif. At least two people were killed and two others were injured when the plane crashed into a suburban Southern California neighborhood, setting two homes ablaze, authorities said. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SANTEE, Calif. (AP) — A small plane crashed in a densely populated San Diego suburb Monday, killing two people, including a UPS driver and an Arizona physician, and leaving a trail of destruction that sent neighbors scrambling to save neighbors. At least two others were injured.

Neighbors described the dramatic rescue of a retired couple from one of two burning homes that were destroyed in Santee, a suburb of 50,000 people. Ten other homes were damaged.

Several vehicles, including the UPS delivery truck, were also torched.

“Not to be too graphic, but it’s a pretty brutal scene,” Justin Matsushita, Santee’s deputy fire chief, said as firefighters searched the smoldering ruins.

United Parcel Service of America Inc. confirmed one of its workers died.

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

The crash also killed Dr. Sugata Das, who worked at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, the hospital’s chief medical officer said.

“As an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man, Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy legacy,” Dr. Bharat Magu said in a statement. “We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues, and friends during this difficult time.”

Das was director of the Power of Love Foundation, a non-profit organization that is involved in helping women and children overseas that are infected or affected by AIDS and HIV, according to its website.

The website said Das, the father of two boys, lived in San Diego and was the owner of a twin-engine Cessna 340 and an instrument-rated pilot who flew between his home and Yuma.

It was unclear how many people were aboard the plane, although fire officials say nobody aboard would have survived the crash.

The condition of the injured couple wasn’t immediately known.

The plane was heading in to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego when it nosedived into the ground. Shortly before, when the plane was about a half-mile from the runway, an air traffic controller alerted the pilot that the aircraft was too low.

“Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” the controller tells the pilot in audio obtained by KSWB-TV.

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.”

KGTV, an ABC affiliate, posted video the station said it received from a viewer showing the plane arcing in the sky and then plunging into the neighborhood in a burst of flames.

People a block away from the scene said their homes shook from the thunderous crash. Michael Keeley, 43, ran barefoot outside and saw flames engulfing the UPS truck and a home on the corner. He joined two neighbors at the burning home calling through an open window.

A second home was also in flames. But no one appeared to be home.

With thick smoke inside the home and flames licking the roof, Keeley reached through the window to grab the woman’s arm and help her climb out. Her forearms were burned, and her hair was singed, he said.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to go inside with my bare feet,” said Keeley, a probation officer.

At the same time, other neighbors knocked down the couple’s fence to rescue the woman’s husband from the backyard.

Keeley said after the couple escaped to the sidewalk, the woman pleaded for help for her dog that was believed to be inside the home.

“She kept saying, ‘My puppy, my puppy,’ ” he said.

But moments later, there were explosions inside the home. The group helped the couple walk a safe distance away until paramedics arrived.

Andrew Pelloth, 30, lives across the street from the couple and was working from home when he heard a whirring and then a huge boom.

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

Pelloth looked outside and first saw the UPS truck on fire. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and then joined other neighbors who pulled the boards off the couple’s fence to rescue the woman’s husband.

Erik Huppert, 57, who ran down to help after his house shook, said he saw the man walking in the backyard after they pulled off the boards.

“Both were definitely in shock, but at least they were alive,” said Huppert, a military contractor.

No one was home at the other house that was destroyed, which sold only a month ago, Pelloth said. He met the new owner Monday as he arrived to see the damage.

The plane was a twin-engine Cessna C340, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

It was believed to be a private aircraft flying from Yuma to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, Santee’s deputy fire chief said.

The crash happened about three blocks from Santana High School, which said on Twitter that “all students are secure.”

The crash site is a few miles north of Gillespie Field, a small San Diego County airport.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Lincoln Ventures, an Austin-based housing developer, broke ground on a new 24-story apartmebt build...
KTAR.com

Groundbreaking held for 24-story downtown Phoenix apartment tower

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday for a 24-story downtown Phoenix apartment building that is projected to be open by 2023.
1 day ago
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)...
Torrence Dunham

Tucson votes to terminate city employees who aren’t vaccinated against COVID by Dec. 1

The Tucson City Council voted Tuesday afternoon to terminate city employees who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 1.
1 day ago
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

US Labor Department warns Arizona, 2 other GOP states over COVID rules

The Biden administration threatened Tuesday to revoke the authority for Arizona and two other Republican-controlled states to handle their own workplace safety enforcement because they have refused to adopt rules to protect health care workers from COVID-19.
1 day ago
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 07: The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at R...
KTAR.com

The Weeknd cancels tour with 2 Valley stops, teases stadium tour

Pop sensation The Weeknd on Monday announced the upcoming 2022 tour that had two stops in the Valley has been canceled, teasing a stadium tour that would commence next summer instead.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Verde Valley Fire District)...
KTAR.com

Arizona firefighter-paramedic dies of COVID-19 complications

Tyrone Bell, an Arizona firefighter/paramedic, died Monday from COVID-19 complications, the Verde Valley Fire District announced.
1 day ago
(Facebook Screenshot/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)...
Associated Press

MCSO Deputy Juan Ruiz remembered for achieving his dream

A Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy who died after being beaten by a suspect was remembered Tuesday as man who lived his dream to protect and serve.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
...
Albertsons

Grill like a pro this fall with tips from Albertsons

As the weather cools and football season kicks off, it’s a great time to fire up the grill and enjoy your favorite outdoor meals.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Doctor from Arizona hospital killed when plane crashes near San Diego