Four people were killed late Saturday when their small plane burst into a ball of flames after crashing into a rugged fog-shrouded hilltop overlooking the ocean in Malibu.
The manager of a charter aviation company in Santa Monica said the victims were the plane's owner and three friends. He said the party had flown from Santa Monica to Oxnard for dinner and were returning when the Piper Cherokee crashed.
Masato Suzuki, manager of Captain U.S.A., said the victims were Kaz Nakamura, a Japan Air Lines flight instructor, Nakamura's friend Masatoshi Yokota and his wife, Fumiko, and another female passenger he knew only by a nickname.
Los Angeles County coroner's officials said the bodies were burned beyond recognition, and no official identification would be made until dental records are reviewed.
Suzuki said Nakamura, who is based in Napa, would fly his personal plane to Santa Monica on weekends to train student pilots. Nakamura, he said, was an experienced pilot with more than 6,500 hours of flying, but Suzuki said he was not sure who was flying the plane when it crashed.
The crash "was a horrendous experience," said Lewis Marvin, 56, who, along with his wife and three children, was awakened shortly after 11 p.m. when the plane plowed into the hillside less than 70 feet from his house. "I looked out the window and I thought that the whole world had blown up."
When the accident occurred, county fire Capt. Michael Johnson said, the fog was so thick that fire personnel responding "couldn't even see the hood of the fire truck."
Because of the weather and the remoteness of the area, Marvin said, firefighters and rescue workers did not arrive at the scene until the flames were almost out.
Marvin's residence in the 20000 block of Everding Motorway is the only structure within earshot of where the accident occurred, Johnson said.
Saturday night's fog, according to a spokesman for WeatherData Inc., which supplies weather forecasts for The Times, resulted from a coastal storm that dropped as much as half an inch of rain in the area. By Sunday, he said, the storm had moved east leaving a prediction of clear and cool skies through the early part of the week with temperatures reaching only into the lower 60s.
Times staff writers Siok-Hian Tay Kelley and Edward J. Boyer contributed to this story.