Amid Grief, Calls To Shut Down Santa Monica Airport After Fatal Plane Crash
SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — A city council member is calling for the permanent closure of Santa Monica Airport after a fatal crash killed at least two people Sunday.
A twin-engine Cessna Citation went off the runway, collided with a runway sign and crashed into a hangar around 6:20 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The hangar collapsed on the plane, which then caught on fire. Authorities said the blaze, which spread to two nearby hangars, burned at unusually high temperatures due to jet fuel. As a result, an unknown number of aircraft and vehicles were damaged.
Officials called the crash “unsurvivable.”
Two cranes are being used to to remove steel trusses and sheet metal that collapsed on the plane’s fuselage, according to Van McKenny of the NTSB. The plane remains buried in the wreckage of the hangar.
“It’s unacceptable,” said City Councilman Mike Bonin. “If this were an intersection in the city of Los Angeles we wouldn’t be allowing these kind of incidents.”
Charles Muttillo, Vice President of Morley Builders, issued a statement Monday about who might have been onboard:
“We are aware of a plane crash at Santa Monica Airport last night. While we do not have specific facts, we believe that our President and CEO, Mark Benjamin, and his son, Luke Benjamin, a Senior Project Engineer with us were on board. We are unable to issue a further statement at this time. We will provide you with more updates as soon as we learn of them. Thank you.”
The aircraft was reportedly registered to Benjamin, whose family founded the construction company in 1947. The company has built some of L.A.’s biggest landmarks.
“Mark Benjamin was one of the kindest, most gentlest, caring, compassionate men you’d ever meet,” a Morley Builder employee named Lydia told KNX1070’s Margaret Carrero. The 27-year employee began working for the company when Morley Benjamin was at the helm, describing the employee-owned firm as a family.
She says everyone is shell shocked and saddened by the loss of Mark and his son Luke, who worked as an engineer for the company.
The plane originated from Hailey, Idaho, where Muttillo said the passengers were taking a weekend vacation.
“It was such a sad, shocking news for all of us,” said Sally Dibai, the Benjamin’s next-door neighbor for 19 years. Their children went to Malibu High School together.
“He was a nice gentle guy,” she said. “Kept to himself, very low-key, very generous and with a kind heart.”
The City of Santa Monica said it is in the process of evaluating options for the aiport after the 1984 Settlement Agreement with the FAA expires in 2015.