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Parking lot plane crash: San Diego witnesses describe close call

Air Transportation DisastersFederal Aviation AdministrationNational Transportation Safety Board
Witnesses describe dramatic small-plane crash in Costco parking lot in San Diego
Costco parking lot plane crash witness: 'I looked up and I'm like, "Oh, this is not going to be pretty" '

Witnesses on the ground described close calls and their shock when a small airplane crashed and burst into flames Wednesday in the parking lot of a Costco in San Diego.

“It was pretty nuts. I was just minding my own business and then a plane falls out of the sky," Cesar Alvarez, who was waiting to pick up his girlfriend from her job at Costco, told KSWB-TV.

Witnesses recalled seeing the plane hit a light fixture before coming down hard onto the asphalt. Moments later onlookers rushed in to help pull out three victims as flames and smoke billowed from the wreckage.

The crash killed the plane's passenger, an 80-year-old woman, and seriously injured the pilot, a 52-year-old woman, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

“I saw the plane just coming down really quickly and it hit a light fixture. As soon as it hit the light fixture, it spun around and then it crashed into the ground," Alvarez said.

Greg Smith, who works across the street, told KSWB that the plane missed his building by 15 or 20 feet.

“They were losing power, and it was going down. I looked up and I'm like, ‘Oh, this is not going to be pretty,' " Smith said.

Vince Carter, a helicopter pilot, had been practicing landings at Montgomery Field nearby. He said he heard the pilot make a call that she was losing power, and then a few seconds later, another one that she was going down.

The privately owned, single-engine plane touched down at Montgomery Field nearby, bounced, and then continued westward, where it crashed into the Costco parking lot in Kearny Mesa, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the incident with the National Transportation Safety Board.

“I think everybody got extremely lucky," Carter said, praising the pilot for where she landed. He added that the plane didn't skid very far.

Times staff writer Ryan Parker contributed to this report.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @Caitlin__Owens, or email her at caitlin.owens@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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