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Fifth Person Killed In Mid-Air Collision Identified

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.

Authorities Wednesday publicly identified a 66-year-old copilot killed along with four other men when a light plane and a twin-engine business jet collided near Otay Mesa last weekend.

James Henry Hale of Adelanto was among four occupants of a Sabreliner jet that collided with a Cessna 172 while the aircraft were approaching Brown Field Municipal Airport shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office and the Federal Aviation Administration. Hale was a contract employee for BAE Systems, which had leased the Sabreliner.

Also killed in the mid-air collision were BAE Systems employees John Kovach, 34, Carlos Palos, 40, and Jeff Percy, 41, all residents of the Kern County town of Mojave, according to the defense contractor. They were taking part in a customer training project at the time of the crash.

The fifth victim was the sole occupant of the Cessna, 55-year-old Michael Copeland of San Diego, a recreational flier and an executive with wireless-communications company Qualcomm.

The wreckage of the Sabreliner ended up west of Harvest Road. The Cessna went down in an open-space preserve east of state Route 125. The accident left aircraft wreckage strewn across a field near R.J. Donovan Correction Center and sparked several brush fires.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are working to determine the cause of the accident.