Cause of Long Beach, Calif. plane crash probed

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2011 4:44 AM
Cause of Long Beach, Calif. plane crash probed

A twin engine turboprop that took off from a California airport crashed and exploded in a fireball as it circled back for the runway, killing five people and critically injured a sixth, officials said.

Prominent real estate developers Tom Dean and Jeff Berger and bicycle advocate Mark Bixby were were among the dead in Wednesday's crash, Mike Murchison, a spokesman for Dean, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The lone survivor, Mike Jensen, was hospitalized in critical condition. The identities of the other two people who died have not been released.

Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez said he did not know why the privately owned Beechcraft King Air turboprop had turned around.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the crash.

He said the crash closed two taxiways and one of the airport's five runways. Commercial flights were not affected.

The front half of the plane and its wings came to rest on a grass median between two taxiways.

The plane left a scorched trail dozens of feet long as it plowed through the grass.

The burning plane sparked a small ground fire that was quickly extinguished, Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Reeb said.

Murchison said the plane belonged to Dean, who also owns 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.

The plane was departing for Salt Lake City when it went down, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. An FAA website said the plane was registered to a Los Angeles company called Carde Equipment Sales LLC. There was no public phone listing for the company.

It was the first crash at the airport in more than 30 years, Rodriguez said.