Owned by Long Beach developer Tom Dean, the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air, crashed and erupted in flames on the northwest portion of the airfield at 10:37 a.m.
A spokeswoman for a Long Beach city councilman told City News Service the dead included Dean; his partner in Studebaker Properties LLC, Jeff Berger; and Mark Bixby, a scion of the family for which Bixby Knolls is named.
“It’s just a tragedy,” said Mike Murchison, a longtime Long Beach-area lobbyist who worked as a spokesman for Dean. Murchison said he had known Bixby since “ever since we were kids” and that he’d known Dean and Berger for about 10 years. According to Murchison, the other two men killed were the pilot, whose last name he did not know, and Bruce Krall.
Mike Jensen, a commercial real estate broker is reported to be the lone survivor. Jensen was taken to a hospital and listed in critical condition.
Director of airport operations Mario Rodriguez said witnesses reported the plane getting off the ground, then banking hard in an attempt to return to the runway. The plane apparently touched down but then crashed, burst into flames and skidded across a turf section of the airfield, leaving a scorched debris trail. The tail section of the plane broke off, and the remainder of the fuselage was burned over.
Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration said it was not immediately clear if the pilot made a radio call to the tower before turning back toward the airport.
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said he had a “very heavy heart” following the crash.
“These were charismatic men that believed in Long Beach, made a real contribution and worked towards a better community. Our thoughts and prayers go to their children and their families in this time of unspeakable sadness,” Foster said.
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