Plane Crashes in Long Beach--2 Walk Away

From Associated Press

Two doctors returning from a Las Vegas medical convention walked away from a plane crash without injury today after their plane plunged through the roof of a Long Beach car-stereo installation shop.

The single-engine plane lost power while on a landing approach near Long Beach Airport about 8:30 this morning, authorities said.

It disappeared from radar while heading toward Runway 30 on instrument approach, police said. As it went down, the plane bumped a freeway sign along the San Diego Freeway at Willow Avenue, sheered off a light pole, then ended up nose down in the roof of an all-metal building at the corner of Willow and Clark streets.

But neither the pilot and passenger nor three stereo installers working inside the shop were injured.


Sounded Like Explosion

“I had just walked inside, and I heard what sounded like an explosion,” employee Mike Bergkvist said. “Glass shattered, and a big, giant beam came down next to me.”

The pilot of the Mooney airplane, Dr. Michael Banchi, 40, of Cypress, said the plane apparently lost power because of a fuel-line blockage, so he tried to glide in.

Asked if he thought he was going to die, Banchi replied: “I was so busy doing the normal emergency procedures I didn’t have time to think about anything else.”

Banchi and his passenger, Dr. Paul Rocket Weber, 39, of Rancho Palos Verdes, are obstetrician-gynecologists who are partners in a Long Beach medical practice.

Weber said he had been afraid of flying and only went along on the trip from Las Vegas because Banchi talked him into it.

As they neared the airport, he said Banchi told him: “ ‘We’re losing power.’ I thought he was joking. . . . The next thing I knew, there was this huge crash, and I was upside down.”