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Investigation Underway Into Mid-Air Collision Near Otay Mesa

Firefighters look at debris from a mid-air plane crash, Aug. 17, 2015.
Firefighters look at debris from a mid-air plane crash, Aug. 17, 2015.

Federal accident investigators worked today to determine what led to an Otay Mesa-area midair collision that killed five men over the weekend.

A twin-engine Sabreliner business jet carrying four people and a single- engine Cessna 172 occupied only by its pilot collided on approach to Brown Field Municipal Airport shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Cessna went down in an open-space preserve east of state Route 125, and the wreckage of the Sabreliner ended up west of Harvest Road.

All five victims died at the scene of the crash, which left aircraft wreckage strewn across a field near R.J. Donovan Correction Center and sparked several brush fires.

Three of the occupants of the Sabreliner were BAE Systems employees John Kovach, Carlos Palos and Jeff Percy, all residents of the Kern County town of Mojave, said Amanda Desourdis, spokeswoman for the defense-contracting company. They were taking part in a customer-training project at the time of the crash.

The fourth man in the twin-engine jet was a contract employee working for the firm, according to Desourdis. His name and that of the pilot of the Cessna, who was on a cross-country trip when the collision occurred, were withheld pending family notification.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent technicians to the crash site to gather evidence and begin the process of ascertaining the cause of the accident.

Officials with BAE Systems "are committed to supporting investigators as they work to understand how this collision occurred," Desourdis said.

A public profile of the Virginia-based company states that it employs about 3,000 people in the San Diego area in shipbuilding; naval-gun development and manufacture; software-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems; and other capacities.