Biplane overturns at Oceanside Airport, injuries minor

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - Two men walked away without serious injuries after the biplane they were in experienced engine trouble and made a crash landing in a field while on approach to Oceanside Municipal Airport.

The accident just north of state Route 76 occurred about 11:30 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot had departed from McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad and was planning to return there, but decided to divert to Oceanside when the engine of the Pitts S-2B double-wing aircraft began to fail, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Oreta Rhodes could not believe what she and her son were seeing as they drove west on the state Route 76 Tuesday at lunchtime.  At first she thought it was a drone, but quickly realized the red and white plane she was watching was in trouble.

"We could see it from the sky, that it was going into a dive," she said.

The plane flipped upside down after coming down in an empty field just east of the Oceanside airport.

Rhodes pulled over and her son, who did not want his name to be used for this story, jumped out and ran toward the plane.

"I was very concerned that the plane could have burst into flames, blew up, caught on fire," he said. "There's a lot of gas on airplanes, and they're in a very dry field so it would be an inferno in this field. It would be very bad."

But there was no fire, not even a spark. In fact, a source close to the crash investigation told 10News no fluids leaked from the plane, and that the pilot refused to answer when asked if he had checked his fuel gauge before lift-off.

After helping to free the pilot and his passenger from the wreckage, Rhodes' son told 10News the pilot said he had engine problems.

The plane is registered to the man who was flying it, Lance Murray of Oceanside. Murray, who lives in San Marcos, left the crash site shortly after his rescue. His passenger was another pilot, Daniel Harabagiu, who suffered minor cuts and scrapes in the crash.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident, Gregor said.

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