Harrowing video captured the moment a small plane crashed into a neighborhood near a California high school, killing a cardiologist who was piloting the doomed aircraft and a UPS driver on the ground.
The twin-engine Cessna 340 is seen in footage posted by KSWB-TV falling behind a house in a quiet neighborhood, where it disappears from view before a cloud of smoke soon erupts.
The plane smashed into a UPS truck, killing the driver, just after noon local time Monday in Santee, a San Diego suburb of 50,000 people. Two people on the ground were hurt, including a woman who was helped out of her burning home by neighbors.
The pilot was identified as Dr. Sugata Das, a cardiologist at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, according to NBC 7.
“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, told the news outlet.
“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,” Magu added.
Das, a father of two young sons who lived in San Diego, commuted back and forth to Yuma, according to a website for a nonprofit organization he served as director.
He was flying to San Diego’s Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport when it crashed. When it was about a half-mile from the runway, an air traffic controller told Das that he was too low.
“Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” the controller said, instructing the pilot to climb to 5,000 feet. “You appear to be descending again, sir.”
United Parcel Service of America Inc. confirmed that one of its employees died, although the person’s name wasn’t immediately released.
People a block away from the crash site said their homes shook from the thunderous impact. Neighbors ran to help rescue a couple believed to be in their 70s from one burning home.
Jim Slaff told NBC 7 that neighbors pulled his mother, Marie Morris, out of a window and rescued his stepfather, Phil Morris, from the backyard after they had been watching TV when the plane hit their house.
Neighbors told him the couple was “obviously shaken up but doing OK” after being taken to UC San Diego Medical Center.
“It’s a war zone. It’s not even a house,” Slaff told the news outlet at the scene.
Michael Keeley 43, who ran outside barefoot after the crash, saw the UPS
truck in flames and found the Morrises calling through an open window. He grabbed the woman’s burned arm and helped her climb out of the window.
“She kept saying, ‘My puppy, my puppy,’” Keeley, a probation officer, told NBC 7.
Moments later, neighbors knocked out fencing to rescue the woman’s husband from the backyard amid explosions.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to go inside with my bare feet,” Keeley added.
Andrew Pelloth, 30, was working at home when he heard the huge boom.
“My initial thought was that it was a meteorite coming down,” he said. “I could hear it falling and then some kind of explosion.”
Another neighbor, Mike Bohen, said he saw the heroes in action.
“They started pulling stuff out of the window, and then they got Marie out,” Bohen told NBC 7.
“She was concerned about her dog. At that time the house was starting to become fully engulfed. I don’t know where Phil was. [Maria] was too incoherent to say anything. She just was out of it. Her hair was burned, her face was burned,” he said.
Slaff said he didn’t think the dog survived.
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