A couple from Southampton, an affluent seaside community in New York, were among the victims of a Saturday plane crash that killed two people and destroyed a San Diego house.
Dawn and Robert Stelling were in the single-engine Beech B36 Bonanza when its engine failed over the community of Clairemont. The plane crash-landed in baseball field next to Lafayette Elementary School, skidded into a house and burst into flames.
Dawn Stelling, one of three passengers in the plane, was injured, but was able to walk away from the wreckage, according to friends, San Diego officials and New York media reports. Her husband, Robert Stelling, was killed.
The other fatally injured passenger and the hurt pilot were not identified.
Friends on social media described Robert Stelling as a kind, genuine man who was a valued member of the prosperous community.
Federal records show the plane was owned by Altitude Aviation, which provides private jet charter services to corporations and individuals.
An unidentified employee said the company is cooperating with investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The six-seat plane took off from Montgomery Field, a half-mile east of Clairemont, about 4:30 p.m. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot reported an engine failure, San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy has said.
It appeared the pilot tried to land the plane in the open space of the schoolyard and adjacent park, the chief said. The plane hit the ground upright and traveled 100 to 200 yards, plowed through at least one fence, then smashed into the house.
Max Sansa, who lives in the home with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, had left for work just 10 minutes earlier.
They lost everything in the fire, including their 16-year-old Maltese poodle, which was in the backyard at the time, said Liz Serrano, Sansa’s wife. She and her daughter were in New York visiting family members.
Although it’s unclear why Dawn and Robert Stelling were on the plane, a friend said the couple was in San Diego for a four-day veterinarian conference. The Fetch! event for veterinary professionals was held at the San Diego Convention Center Thursday through Sunday.
Dawn Stelling is a veterinarian at the Olde Town Animal Hospital in Southampton, which she owns, according to the hospital’s website and local media reports. Her husband was the general manager of the Southampton Peconic Beach and Tennis Club, a well-established and private club on the Great Peconic Bay.
Robert Stelling’s parents have owned the business since 1978, according to its website.
The couple has three children.