2-Engine Plane Slams Into House; Pilot Dies

Times Staff Writers

A twin-engine light plane, apparently en route to Van Nuys Airport, crashed into a Sepulveda home Wednesday night and exploded, killing the pilot and destroying the house.

Ken Ashton was inside his house at 9545 Ruffner Ave. eating french fries and watching a "Star Trek" rerun on television, when the Piper Aerostar smashed into the structure.

Both the wreckage and the home quickly exploded into flames, but Ashton escaped with barely a scratch.

'Everything Turned Orange'

"I'm lucky to be alive," Ashton marveled, a short time later after treatment for a few small head cuts at Granada Hills Community Hospital.

"It happened real fast," he recalled. "I was sitting on a couch in the corner (of the living room) when I heard an engine roar, real loud. Then, bang, there was dust everywhere, the ceiling fell in and there was an explosion. Everything turned orange.

"The French windows had been blown out and I just jumped out through them and the house went up in flames. It was instantaneous."

Ashton, 38, a nuclear medicine technician at Encino Hospital, said he lost everything. There were no other people in the house at the time.

By the time firefighters put out the flames, all that remained of the house were a few smoking outer walls and the charred hulks of a sedan and a pickup truck that had been parked in the garage and driveway. Damage was estimated at $125,000 by Los Angeles Fire Department officials.

One body, presumed to be that of the pilot, was found in the ashes of the plane, Fire Department Battalion Chief Ted O'Miela said.

The body was not immediately identified.

House, Plane Incinerated

There was a possibility that the remains of any passengers in the plane could be buried in the rubble, O'Miela said. The house and aircraft were incinerated by the intense heat of the burning magnesium and aluminum of the plane's fuselage.

Firefighters were waiting for the embers to cool before searching the area.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, Dick Hallen, said the pilot had radioed the control tower at Van Nuys Airport shortly before the crash, reporting engine trouble.

The plane, a light transport designed to carry six passengers in addition to pilot and co-pilot, was based at Van Nuys.

Hallen said he did not know from where the plane had taken off.

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