‘You appear to be descending again sir,’ pilot told before deadly Santee crash
Authorities are still trying to piece together. What caused a plane to crash into a Santee neighborhood yesterday, killing two people, the Cessna 348 crash just afternoon, Monday into a ups fan and houses at Jeremy and Greencastle streets. The ups driver was killed. Two houses went up in flames. The pilot of the aircraft was also killed. At least two people were injured in the crash and damage to houses extended throughout the area. The crash happened less than a mile from Santana high school. And joining me is KPBS news reporter Matt Hoffman and Matt. Welcome. Maureen, can you describe the damage in the, at the crash site? There are pictures of a house fire and a truck that's been completely mangled.
Yeah. So there's two houses on a block that are completely unrecognizable, lots of fire damage. Uh, but also just looks like, you know, the top half of them was sort of chopped off. Um, there's no sight of a plane. We know that a plane obviously hit that house. There's a lot of debris scattered within the street. Uh, there's a few burned out cars in the driveway. And then, uh, there's that ups truck, uh, that also was caught on fire. Not sure if the plane hit that. Uh, but it somehow was engulfed in flames. And we do know that, uh, one of the two fatalities did come from a driver who was driving that fan.
Right. And the pilot of the Cessna was killed too. What do we know about the pilot?
Yeah, so we know that the pilot was a cardiologist at the Yuma medical center in Arizona, and we know that that's where the plane was coming from. It was coming from Yuma to airport up near Kearny Mesa. Uh, still really unsure what went wrong, but federal investigators are on the scene. Now
The national transportation safety board, as you say, yeah. Is investigating the plane crash today. Have they said anything so far?
Yeah. So they, they put out a little bit more of an update. They said that three of their investigators arrived on the scene this morning. Um, and right now they're in the process of documenting the scene and we see a lot of people walking around with NTSB jackets on, uh, with cameras and clipboards sort of documenting everything they're seeing. And they're saying part of the investigation is going to be to request what radar data, weather information, and air traffic control communication. Um, they say, it's going to take about 15 days, uh, to sort of, uh, get a preliminary report coming out here. They're not releasing any names. Uh, they also did note that the aircraft, you know, sometimes when these bigger, larger planes crash, we know that this was a smaller one. I had these recorders on board. They said that there was no flight recorder on board.
Now the crash occurred during a day where we had very high winds and a wind advisory was in place. Do you have any information on the weather's potential role in the crash
Know, we don't have any information about whether the weather sort of impacted that, that crash. We do know that that's something that federal investigators are going to be looking at, uh, but just listening and reviewing some of the air traffic control. Um, you can hear, you know, on one end from the airport, um, you could hear that, uh, the pilot is dropping altitude and they're telling him to pull up to pull up. Um, so maybe something went wrong mechanically. We don't know. Uh, but really sort of unclear on if weather played a factor into this.
Now, two people who lived in a corner house, uh, where that crash occurred, they barely got out alive. Their house was completely destroyed by fire. Do we know how they're doing it?
Yeah. There's some very dramatic video of neighbors, you know, about half a dozen of them rushing after they heard, what, what sounded like a big explosion or running over to try and help ended up pulling a one of the women out of the window. Um, we do know, I actually just spoke to her son just a few minutes ago. Um, he lives over by San Diego state. So I had to drive out here to San ti when this all happened a very emotional time right now. Uh, we do know that the couple, uh, were conscious when they were taken to the hospital. Um, but they have burns, you know, third degree burns on their body. Um, and their recovery is still a ways out, but they are talking, um, you know, the woman was asking right after the crash, what happened, what happened? Um, it's sort of sensible explained to her of what they do think, unfortunately, that one of her dogs decided the house, uh, passed away.
What about the other house that was destroyed? What do we know
About that? So we know that that house investigators said was empty. Um, and it appears that the homeowners may be here in the area right now, trying to deal with insurance like that. That's the next big hurdle. Um, I was talking to the son of that couple that was inside that house, you know, it's completely destroyed. So if they were released from the hospital, you know, tomorrow, uh, they don't have a home to go back to. So they're trying to figure out all those ins and outs right now.
Is there a extensive damage to the rest of the neighborhood?
Yeah, so we know that there was two houses that were completely destroyed and about 10 other homes that had some sort of damage, you know, whether it be from debris, we know that one house down the street, uh, the blast actually blew out a window. Um, so there's still some assessments underway.
Uh, but two homes that were completely damaged, uh, you know, about four cars that are complete total losses, completely burned out. Um, this, the son described as like a war scene looking like out here. Um, but that's the sort of extent of it right now. Crash occurred only blocks from Santana high school, that proximity must've made a lot of people nervous.
Yeah. It's actually just a few blocks down the way we were just talking to a gentleman out here who said that he lives just over right by the high school. He said that he didn't hear, uh, the, the sort of loud boom or the explosion. Um, he was home at the time. Uh, but we do know from a lot of neighbors, they definitely heard it. A lot of people rushing out. A lot of those people talked to one gentleman this morning pulled that woman out of the house, you know, said that he didn't get a lot of sleep last night, still thinking about the impact and sort of the fallout afterward,
You know, where you're going to hear more about the cause of this crash or, or the update. Is there any update of any kind coming up?
Yeah. So at this preliminary stage, the NTSB says that they do not have a cause or they will provide more information when it's available. Um, they say that, you know, investigations involving fatalities and deaths are major investigations and they take, uh, quite a while in between a year and two years to complete. But we should know within 15 days when we get some more preliminary information about what went wrong on that plane
KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman reporting from the scene of that crash in Santee yesterday. And Matt, thank you very much. Thanks, Maureen.
UPDATE: 2:48 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021
Shortly before the twin-engine Cessna 340A crashed into a Santee neighborhood Monday, killing two people, the pilot was told by the control tower he was flying too low.
In an audio recording obtained by KPBS, Gillespie Field’s control tower told the pilot he was veering off course.
“Two-two-golf, looks like you’re drifting right off course, are you correcting?” the control tower said, referring to the last three digits of the plane’s registry number, N72022G.
“Correcting, two-two golf,” said the pilot, presumed to be Dr. Sugata Das, the owner of the plane.
Minutes later, the tower told the pilot he was flying too low and to climb immediately.
“Maintain 3,000, low altitude alert,” the tower said.
“Climbing, two-two-golf,” Das responded.
After some more routine back-and-forth between radio traffic control, the tower told the pilot to “climb the plane immediately.”
“Expedite climb, please,” the tower said.
After not getting a response from Das, the radio traffic controller told him to level off and climb when he can. Again, no response from the pilot. The control tower made one more attempt to contact Das.
“You appear to be descending again sir,” the radio traffic controller said. “Are you losing altitude?”
The Cessna 340A crashed shortly afterward at the intersection of Greencastle and Jeremy streets in Santee around 12:15 p.m. The aircraft was en route from Yuma, Arizona, to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, according to county officials and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
At least two people were killed and several others injured. The plane crashed into two homes on Jeremy and Greencastle streets. Both houses were completely gutted.
Yuma Regional Medical Center confirmed that its cardiologist Dr. Das died in the accident after his plane crashed.
“With tremendous sadness, Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) shares our heartfelt condolences following the tragic death of cardiologist and friend, Dr. Sugata Das who died in a plane crash yesterday,” the company said in a press release.
“Our community has lost an exceptional physician, colleague and friend, a man who dedicated his life and career to caring for patients,” said Dr. Bharat Magu, Chief Medical Officer at YRMC. “Dr. Das was an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man. He was a highly disciplined physician who thrived on each opportunity to improve care for heart patients.”
Authorities have not officially identified any of the victims in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the agency in charge of investigating the crash. It is on site Tuesday documenting the accident.“Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, airplane maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records,” NTSB said in a statement to KPBS. “NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation.”
A preliminary report from the agency is expected to be published 15 days after the accident.
It was unclear how many occupants were aboard the six-seat aircraft when it plunged to the ground.
Neighbors helped a man and woman evacuate from one of the damaged 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 looked 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 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.
No one was inside the other home at the time.
A UPS delivery truck in front of the homes was also destroyed. UPS confirmed to KPBS News its driver Steve Krueger was one of the two people killed.
"We are heartbroken by the loss of our driver Steve Krueger, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the company said in a statement to KPBS. “Those who knew Steve said he took pride in his work, and his positive attitude and joyful laugh made the hardest days a little lighter. Steve was held in high regard and will be greatly missed.”
UPS said it is coordinating a moment of silence Tuesday at 12:14 p.m. to pay respects to Krueger and his family.
Reports from the scene indicated that part of the plane ended up in one of the heavily damaged homes, while the engine landed in another. The crash created a debris field that covered much of a city block, authorities said.
The Red Cross established an evacuation center at Cameron Family YMCA on Riverwalk Drive in Santee for residents forced from their homes due to the crash.