The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating Wednesday a two-plane collision over Ramona airport that seriously injured a Mira Mesa flight instructor and his El Cajon student, authorities said.

“At this point we can’t determine the probable cause,” said NTSB air safety investigator Wayne Pollack. “The preliminary information that we have indicates that a Pitts aircraft and a Bellanca Citabria plane collided at about 30 to 50 feet while on short, final approach.”

Commercial pilot and flight instructor Vance Breise, 51, remained in serious condition Wednesday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, and his student, Douglas Matson, 47, of El Cajon, was in fair condition, hospital spokesman Mike Dabney said.

Breise and Matson were coming in for a landing in a Bellanca biplane while Ramona resident and private pilot Donald Kohorst, 55, was trying to do the same thing in a single-engine Pitts plane, authorities said.


Witnesses told investigators that both pilots had announced their positions and had maintained contact with an operator on the ground at Ramona airport. Witnesses said the tail section of the Bellanca was severed, said Pollack.

The Pitts landed upside down, he said. Kohorst was not injured.

Pollack said visibility was satisfactory when the crash occurred about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. No mechanical failures were reported by either pilot.

“The purpose is to determine the respective flight paths prior to the collision and what the circumstances were that gave rise to the collision,” Pollack said, adding that a final report would not be complete for several months.