WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A memorial steadily grew Saturday at the site of a plane crash that friends say claimed the life of a 70-year-old pilot.
Friends identified the pilot Sean McMillan, an attorney who resides in Westchester.
“He was one of the good guys,” said Alan Dias, the executive director for Angel Flight West, an organization that arranges free, non-emergency air travel for people with serious medical conditions. He said that for the past decade McMillan used his own plane to fly volunteer medical missions for Angel Flight. He was allegedly not on a mission when the plane crashed.
“This gives us a reason to be compassionate while doing we’re something we’re passionate about. And Sean exemplified that in that he loved to fly and gave him a reason and a way to give back to the community,” Dias said.
The small aircraft — a single-engine Cessna 210 — went down in the middle of a densely populated area Friday evening. The crash happened in the 2100 block of Glendon Avenue.
The pilot had declared an emergency shortly after departing from Santa Monica Airport just after 6 p.m.
According to officials, he was trying to get back to the runway when the plane struck a tree and burst into flames about three miles from the airport.
Several blocks were closed overnight as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other agencies arrived on scene to investigate.
A first responder in the area described the low-flying plane as “going down fast.”
“He said that he looked up and did not hear any noise from the motor and witnessed the plane hit the palm tree. It fell to the ground and shortly thereafter was engulfed in flame,” said Los Angeles Fire Department assistant chief Andy Fox.
No homes were damaged and no one on the ground was injured.
Two residents whose homes sit next to the crash scene told CBS2′s Greg Mills that they were grateful to the pilot. Eyewitnesses said it was apparent the pilot was trying to maneuver between buildings.
McMillan’s close friend and fellow Rotary Club member Mike Newman stopped by the crash site Saturday. He said he considered McMillan a hero for steering the plane away from homes.
“He avoided everything he could avoid and that’s just Sean — taking care of business and doing the best he can,” Newman said.
McMillan graduated from USC and then Harvard Law School, and worked as an attorney for the Greenberg Taurig Firm.
Friends said McMillan’s death is a tragic loss for his family and the community.
“It’s sad, but I know Sean loved to fly and he died doing what he loves,” Newman said.
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