RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A plane that crashed into a Riverside neighborhood and destroyed two homes was carrying husband-and-wife pilots and their grown daughter, and a mother and daughter who were friends of the family, relatives said Wednesday.
Stacey Pierce survived the fiery crash and was seriously injured while her parents, the 83-year-old pilot Nouri Hijazi and his 67-year-old wife Dana Hijazi, were both killed. Nevada resident Christy Crown, Pierce’s sister-in-law, identified the three in a statement.
“He was an extremely experienced pilot, which was his hobby, his passion,” Crown said of Nouri Hijazi.
“We want to say how incredibly devastated and heartbroken we are and still trying to process everything,” her statement said.
The group, relatives of two junior-high age girls who had gone to a weekend cheerleading competition, was returning to San Jose on a rainy Monday when their plane crashed suddenly in Riverside, east of Los Angeles, killing three people and critically injuring two who were ejected. The girls returned safely to San Jose on a bus with their team.
Pierce’s husband Richard Pierce said that his wife has been stabilized and underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon. The couple’s daughter also returned to her middle school Wednesday, Richard Pierce told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Their daughter was one of the two cheerleaders. She returned to school Wednesday.
Sylvia Farelas also survived, while her 22-year-old daughter Adine was killed, Brandon Farelas, Sylvia’s son, told KGO-TV. He said his mother called him before the flight and said she was worried about the rainy weather.
Sylvia Farelas had burns over 90 percent of her body and had gone through two surgeries, family members and firefighters said.
Adine’s younger sister was the other cheerleader the group had gone to see.
Before the crash, the smiling members of the team celebrated their first place trophy win at the weekend’s national cheer competition, according to the group’s Facebook page. Adine Farelas posted that she was “having a blast” with her mother and Pierce and looking forward to heading to the Disneyland park where the event was to be held.
Authorities have not confirmed the victims’ identities.
The twin-engine Cessna 310 ignited a massive fire that destroyed two homes and slightly damaged two others when it crashed. No one on the ground was hurt.
After hearing a loud sound that shook her house like an earthquake, 38-year-old Traci Zamora rushed outside. Around the corner, she saw a house engulfed in flames, and one of the victims came crawling out onto the lawn, her lower body on fire.
Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore said the plane had just taken off from Riverside Municipal Airport, less than a mile away, bound for San Jose, after the cheerleading competition at Disney California Adventure Park.
He did not provide the name of the cheerleading competition, but the Jr. USA Nationals for girls 15 and under was held at the venue over the weekend.
Weather in the area 60 miles east of Los Angeles had included rain, but there were no immediate indications of what caused the crash.
Dana Hijazi was from Poland and her relatives were coming to the US to support the family, Pierce said.
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