One dead after small plane crashes in Riverside County
RIVERSIDE COUNTY — A small plane crashed and crashed again Wednesday on Interstate 215 in Riverside County, killing one person on each occasion.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the victims were identified as 51-year-old Steve Williams, who had been a pilot for the past 12 years, and 27-year-old Jennifer Lafferty.
The plane was reported to be a privately owned Cessna Skyhawk, with a single pilot on board.
A spokesman for Riverside County Fire officials said there was one person on board the plane when it crashed into a utility pole on U.S. 395 in the unincorporated community of West Hills. It crashed again shortly after and then again after that, the spokesman said. It landed on a median and burned completely.
The latest crash happened on the freeway near where the first one happened. The initial crash was reported at 7:30 a.m. and lasted three minutes. The second crash happened about a half-hour later at 9:05 a.m. and lasted four seconds.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane had a takeoff weight of 29,000 pounds and a range of about 220 miles at an elevation of 6,500 feet, which is less than the minimum altitude to operate in California. The Skyhawk had only one person on board, not two as the pilot said in initial communications with air traffic controllers.
The NTSB said the Skyhawk “appeared to lose altitude in a steep dive” shortly after takeoff, but the pilot was able to recover and land safely. A witness said when the plane crashed again, he could see the victim’s body in the wreckage.
“Investigators have determined that there are no mechanical issues that would explain these crashes,” the FAA said in an update. “A review of the video footage taken from the first crash indicates that the pilot did not have visual contact with the first crash scene at the time of the second crash, contrary to how the pilot described his observations at both events in initial communications with the tower.”
Darrell Williams of Riverside told The Times Wednesday afternoon that