A plane that crashed into a Central California medical building, killing four people on board, took off at a steep angle, rolled until it was nearly upside down and then nose-dived, according to federal investigators.
The findings were included in a preliminary report about the July 7 crash in Watsonville issued by the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The Mooney M20 piloted by David Houghton, 45, took off from Watsonville Municipal Airport around 7:20 p.m. under clear skies.
Houghton and his three passengers, his wife, Dorothy, 44, and their sons, Luke, 12, and Ryan, 10, were heading to Groveland for the weekend, according to the NTSB. Relatives have said they were planning to meet up with family in the Sierra Nevada.
Two witnesses, including a pilot, reported that the plane rolled rapidly to the left about 500 feet above the threshold of a runway after taking off at a steep angle, the NTSB report said. The plane, built in 1974, nearly inverted and then nose-dived, completing two turns before appearing to begin to recover and disappearing behind trees.
The witnesses observed fire and smoke after that.
Marks on the ground indicated the plane hit a parking lot and then slid about 130 feet into a building, the NTSB said. Portions of the plane were consumed by fire.
The building _ on the grounds of Watsonville Community Hospital _ was not occupied.
All four family members died in the crash. No one on the ground was hurt, and the hospital was not affected.
David Houghton had received his private pilot certificate in March and logged about 140 hours in the plane, according to the NTSB.