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2 killed, 2 injured in small plane crash near Santana High School in Santee

UPDATE: 7:46 p.m., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021

Two people were killed and two others injured when a small plane crashed Monday near Santana High School in Santee.

The Cessna 340A crashed around 12:15 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We were the first ones over there after we heard it,” Greg Yarmon said. “It was like out of the movies. You know, the downward spiraling.”

Everything happened so fast, his wife said.

The plane started its flight from Yuma, Arizona, and was headed to Montgomery Field in San Diego, said county spokesperson Donna Durckel. She said the pilot had an emergency and made a crash landing. No details about the passengers are known.

“That’s really the biggest question mark that, hopefully, we will be able to answer for you soon,” Santee Deputy Fire Chief Justin Matsushita said. “But as far as the plane’s occupants and the extent of the crash damage, it was non-survivable.”

The plane’s registry number was N7022G, according to Durckel. It’s registered to Samarth Aviation LLC in Yuma, according to the FAA registry report.

The plane was owned by Yuma Regional Medical Center cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das, the hospital said in a statement.

“We are deeply sad to hear news of a plane owned by local cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das which crashed near Santee,” said Dr. Bharat Magu. Chief Medical Officer at YRMC. “As an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy. We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues and friends during this difficult time.”

Authorities have not identified any of the victims in the crash.

The plane crashed into two homes on Jeremy and Greencastle streets. Both were completely gutted. Neighbors helped a man and woman evacuate from one of the homes. Neighbors said they heard a loud boom at the time of the crash.

“I ran outside and I heard my neighbors yelled, ‘A plane just crashed,’ and I turned and look and saw all the smoke over here so I immediately took off running,” said Michael Keeley, who helped evacuate the woman from the burning home. “I came over here. I came up this street and saw the front of the house was fully engulfed in flames but the side window was not. So me and six and seven other neighbors went to that window called out, ‘Is there anyone in here?’ And she said, ‘My puppy, my puppy. What just happened?’”

The woman was pulled out of the window. Her hair was singed and she had burns on her face and arms. Her husband was rescued from the backyard. Both were taken to UCSD Medical Center for burn treatment.

It was unclear if anyone was inside the other home at the time. The home had an active gas leak, preventing officials from doing a thorough investigation.

A UPS delivery truck in front of the homes was also destroyed. UPS confirmed to KPBS News its driver was one of the two people killed.

“We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the company said in a statement. “We also send our condolences for the other individuals who are involved in this incident, and their families and friends.”

Amanda Nelson was one of the first people at the scene and was shaken by what she saw.

“I automatically saw the truck on the other side (of the home) and someone said it was the UPS truck,” she said. “And I saw him and he did not make it.”

The other fatality was presumed to be the pilot.

At least a dozen homes were damaged in the crash. Authorities extended the evacuation zone one block out from the crash site.

The Sheriff’s Department warned people to stay away from the area around the 9900 block of North Magnolia. Around 1:23 p.m., the department said Jeremy Street between 2nd Street and Mast Blvd. and N. Magnolia Avenue between 2nd Street and Mast Blvd. were closed to traffic and pedestrians.

The FAA said the National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of the investigation.

When the crash happened, Santana High School tweeted “all students are secure” and the school is in a “secure campus mode.” Around 1 p.m, the school said it’s gotten the OK from the sheriff’s department to come out of “secure campus mode.” Students are being released for lunch or dismissed if they have no other classes for the day, the school tweeted.

A KPBS employee who lives near the area said there were flames but it appeared to have died out.

The crash happened as the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for San Diego County in effect from 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday.

The agency said gale-force winds and rough seas at the coast and damaging gusts possible in the mountains.

This is a developing story. We will update as more information becomes available.