YORBA LINDA (CBSLA) – The pilot of a small plane which exploded and crashed into a home in Yorba Linda Sunday — killing himself and four others — was not a Chicago police officer as initially reported.
In a news conference Monday, Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Cory Martino said that the pilot, 75-year-old Antonio Pastini of Gardnerville, Nevada, was a retired Chicago officer. A police badge and retirement papers had been found following the crash.
However, on Tuesday, sheriff’s officials confirmed to CBS2 that the badge and papers were fake. Furthermore, the Chicago Police Department told WBBM Newsradio in Chicago that the department had no one by that name listed as an officer.
At 1:45 p.m. Sunday, just 10 minutes after taking off from Fullerton Municipal Airport, Pastini’s twin-engine Cessna exploded in midair and broke apart, with a portion of the plane slamming into and destroying a home in the 19000 block of Crestknoll Drive.
Pastini, the sole occupant of the plane, died along with two men and two women – all believed to be family members — who were inside the home preparing for a Super Bowl party. Along with the five victims, two more people were badly burned.
Several other nearby homes also caught fire. The crash left debris over a four-block radius.
“From the video, it appears it was an in-flight break up,” NTSB head investigator Maya Smith said Monday. “There was a few witness statements out there that said the wings fell off first, and then the explosion followed because probably fuel onboard.”
Cell phone video captured the chaos that ensued, with flames and smoke billowing hundreds of feet in the air as one man using a garden hose to put out fire on part of the wing. The cabin of the plane landed in a ravine near an adjacent home.
Nancy Mehl, who live a few doors down from the home that was struck, told CBS2 that a piece of the engine and shrapnel tore through her own home, shattering windows, cutting through dry wall and landing in her bathroom – missing her by just feet.
“I could hear just the worst screaming of the engine, like a super whine,” Mehl said. “Just really, really high pitched, louder than anything I’ve ever heard.”
Pastini’s daughter Julia Ackley told CBS2 Monday that her father flew in often from Nevada to Fullerton to visit his family. She described him as a veteran pilot who volunteered for Angel Flight, which provides medical transportation for those in need. She said he leaves behind a wife, three children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The cause of the crash remains unknown. The wreckage and other evidence is being taken to a facility in Arizona where it will be examined by the NTSB. It can take several months for the NTSB to complete its investigation.
“We will also do an investigation into the pilot’s history, medical records, his flight experience, as well as environment, weather and everything else that was surrounding the accident,” Smith said Monday.