CORONA (CBSLA) — Four people were killed after a small plane crashed at the Corona Municipal Airport Wednesday, sparking a vegetation fire in the process.
During take off, the single-engine Bonanza A-36 failed to lift off. Instead, the plane crashed through a fence, hit a berm to the east of the airport, landed upside down and caught fire.
The Corona Police Department and Corona Fire Department responded to the crash as flight personnel worked to extinguish the resulting brush fire.
“Everybody ran over,” Dorothe Voll, a witness, said. “We brought fire extinguishers.”
Despite their best efforts, nearby pilots were not able to save those on board.
“The four victims in the place did suffer extensive burn injuries,” John Deyoe, spokesperson for the Corona Fire Department, said.
The Corona Fire Department said that once the 80 gallons of fuel ignited, there was no chance of survival for those on the plane.
Voll, who is also a pilot, said she did not know the pilot of the plane and suspected he might not be from the area.
The plane, based out of Torrance, belonged to 84-year-old Joseph Zingali.
Zingali’s daughter said the family was still waiting to hear whether he was on the plane, and, if so, whether he was the one flying.
According to investigators, the pilot was flying eastbound on the runway, attempting to take off downwind — a departure some pilots said was not recommended at non-towered airports like Corona.
“The wind’s showing to go this direction, so normal departure is into the wind,” Walt Snyder, a witness, said.
Snyder, who is also a pilot, estimated that the aircraft might have been traveling 90 miles per hour when it crashed.
“He [the pilot] didn’t pull back and he was too fast on the runways,” Voll said. “Then he flipped, and then everybody was running, and it started on fire, and then it had two explosions which probably were the fuel tanks.”
Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been called in to investigate.