SANTEE, Calif. (KGTV) -- The investigation and clean-up effort continued Tuesday following a plane crash in a Santee neighborhood that claimed the lives of at least two people and destroyed several homes on Monday afternoon.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, at around 12:15 p.m., a Cessna C340 out of Yuma, Arizona, was on its way to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa when it went down in a neighborhood on Greencastle Street, near Jeremy Street.
The aircraft plummeted to the ground and is believed to have hit a UPS delivery truck just before crashing into at least two houses. The impact led to a fire that engulfed the homes and several parked vehicles.
While the FAA said they could not confirm how many occupants were inside the twin-engine plane, the Yuma Regional Medical Center stated the aircraft was owned by Dr. Sugata Das. There was no confirmation that Das was the pilot at the time of the crash, however.
“We are deeply sad to hear news of a plane owned by local cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das which crashed near Santee,” said Dr. Bharat Magu. Chief Medical Officer at YRMC. “As an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy. We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues and friends during this difficult time."
UPS confirmed that one of its employees was killed during the plane crash. The worker was not identified.
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Santee Fire Department Deputy Chief Justin Matsushita said two people were confirmed dead while two victims were taken to the hospital.
Matsushita described the scene as “pretty brutal” and noted there was a possibility of more fatalities.
In a statement from the City of Santee, officials expressed their condolences and hailed the strength of the community during this time:
"On behalf of the Mayor and City Council of the City of Santee, we are extremely saddened by the plane crash that occurred in our community yesterday. Our deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the victims who tragically lost their lives, and are extending all the support that we can for those who were injured, lost homes, or suffered property damage in this incident ...
We send our sincere gratitude to the first responders and partnering agencies who assisted at the scene to manage this incident and protect the life and property of others as much as possible.
Unfortunately, this is not the first tragedy the Santee community has faced, but it continues to show the great nature and caliber of the people who live in our city. This was an absolute example of neighbors helping neighbors, and community members helping in the immediate aftermath of the crash.
We will never forget this tragic accident or the victims, and we know the Santee community will come together to support the residents who lost their homes and rebuild our community."
Administrators at Santana High School instituted a "secure campus" status as a precaution and deputies closed Jeremy Street and North Magnolia Avenue between Mast Boulevard and Second Street while emergency crews worked to extinguish the fires and mitigate other damage caused by the plane crash. Officials shut off electrical service in the immediate area for safety reasons.
The school had returned to normal operations by mid-afternoon, with students being "released for lunch or dismissal, if they do not have any other classes today," according to a campus advisory.
The Red Cross established an evacuation center at Cameron Family YMCA on Riverwalk Drive in Santee for residents forced from their homes due to the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed it is investigating the cause of the crash. The agency issued the following statement to ABC 10News on Tuesday morning:
“NTSB is investigating the Oct. 11, 2021, crash of a Cessna 340A in Santee, CA. Three NTSB investigators arrived on scene this morning. The investigators are in the process of documenting the scene. Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, airplane maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records. NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation.
The flight operated on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan from Yuma International Airport in Yuma, Arizona to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, California. The aircraft did not have a recorder on board. Wreckage recovery will begin today.
The NTSB does not release the names of those involved in the accidents we investigate. The local officials may release this information.
The preliminary report, which includes all the factual information learned to date, is expected to publish 15 days after the accident.
At this early stage of an investigation, NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available. Investigations involving fatalities, and other major investigations currently take between 12 and 24 months to complete.”