Cause investigated in California small plane crash that killed five


(Reuters) – Investigators on Monday were probing what caused a small plane to break apart shortly after takeoff and crash in Yorba Linda, California, killing the pilot and four people on the ground.

The twin-engine Cessna 414 took off from nearby Fullerton Municipal Airport on Sunday afternoon and spread debris over a four-block area on its way down, National Transportation Safety Board officials said. The pilot was the only person on board.

“There was evidence of an in-flight break-up, which is consistent with the wreckage field,” NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said by telephone.

The NTSB and local officials have scheduled a press conference on Monday about the crash which occurred about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Los Angeles.

Investigators were collecting pieces of the wreckage and were expected to have a preliminary report in 10 to 14 days.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Cory Martino told reporters on Sunday that the dead included the male pilot and two males and two females inside the house that the bulk of the wreckage hit.

The county coroner was working to identify the dead and notify next of kin, Martino said. Two other people were hospitalized with moderate burns, he added.

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Resident Nancy Mehl, 65, said she heard the high-pitched whine of an airplane engine and took cover in her home with her two dogs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“And then it felt like a bomb went off through the front of the house,” she told the newspaper.

Flying debris smashed through windows and a propeller crashed in her driveway, while a burning wing landed in another resident’s front yard, according to the newspaper.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Osterman

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