Cause of Long Beach, Calif., plane crash probed

AP News
Posted: Mar 17, 2011 2:33 PM
Cause of Long Beach, Calif., plane crash probed

Charred debris from a plane that crashed and burned on takeoff, killing five people and critically injuring the survivor, was removed Thursday from the Long Beach Airport.

A salvage company took the wreckage to a facility near Palmdale where federal investigators will examine it and try to determine the cause of the crash, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air turboprop went down shortly after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday just after takeoff. Witnesses said it plunged and exploded in a fireball, leaving a flaming trail for dozens of feet along a grass median between two paved airport taxiways. The plane's tail was torn off along with part of the fuselage.

Firefighters managed to rescue one person. Passenger Mike Jensen, 51, was hospitalized in critical condition.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office identified the dead Thursday as Thomas Fay Dean, 50, of Laguna Beach; Bruce Michael Krall, 51, of Ladera Ranch; Jeffrey Albert Berger, 49, of Manhattan Beach; Mark Llewllyn Bixby, 44, from Long Beach; and Kenneth Earl Cruz, 43, of Culver City.

Dean and Berger were prominent real estate developers and Bixby was a bicycle advocate, Mike Murchison, a spokesman for Dean, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Dean owned the plane, he said.

The group was flying to Park City, Utah, to go skiing, Bixby's friend, Allan Crawford, told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Cruz was the pilot and had no record of any previous accidents or disciplinary action, according to Gregor.

Early reports said the plane was circling back to the airport when it went down, but Gregor said he could not confirm that.

"The plane made an immediate left bank after taking off and then a sharp left bank or dive into the airfield," he said in a statement.

Murchison said Dean owned most of the Los Cerritos Wetlands in southeast Long Beach. Part of the wetlands was traded last year to the city in exchange for most of its public service yard in a land swap.

Berger was Dean's business partner.

Bixby, a descendant of a founding family of Long Beach, was passionate about cycling and had been advocating to put a bike lane on a new bridge over the Port of Long Beach.