LAKE BALBOA ( — A coroner’s official late Friday released the identity of the pilot killed when a small plane crashed near Van Nuys Airport.

Alberto Enrique Behar, 47, died at the scene after crashing into the busy intersection of Hayvenhurst Avenue and Vanowen Street in Lake Balboa.

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Behar was the sole occupant of the experimental plane, which crashed shortly after takeoff. Seconds before the chaos, witnesses described an eerie silence.

(credit: Jon Baird/KNX1070)

(credit: Jon Baird/KNX1070)

“The engine was off. Completely off. I don’t hear any noise,” one man said, while another stated: “I just saw a white thing come down, and I heard a big boom, like as if, a bomb went off.”

Off-camera, a friend told KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo that the pilot used the single-engine Lancair to commute from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., to his job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The friend described Behar as a husband, father of three, and renowned scientist. He said Behar had a doctorate and worked on NASA’s Mars program.

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A biography for Behar on the JPL website indicates that he had been a member of the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section at JPL since 1991. According to the website, he earned his doctorate from USC.

According to Farjardo, Behar’s resume indicated that he was an experienced pilot and helicopter instructor. His friend said, “The world has lost a good man and brilliant scientist.”

The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.


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