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Pilot arrested on suspicion of flying under the influence after landing plane in parking lot

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A 58-year-old pilot was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of operating an aircraft while under the influence after he landed in the parking lot of a fashion designer’s Whittier warehouse.

Darrell Roberts of Winchester, Calif., touched down his single-engine Piper at the Michael Kors distribution center in the 3700 block of Workman Mill Road at about 10:15 p.m. on Monday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said.

Authorities are investigating whether the landing was forced due to an engine failure or if the plane ran out of gas.

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Roberts, who had departed from Temecula, failed a sobriety test, Villanueva said. No passengers were aboard the plane.

Roberts was not injured but was taken to a hospital after he complained of abdominal pain. He was released about 6 a.m. on Tuesday and booked at the Pico Rivera sheriff’s station, Villanueva said.

He is expected to appear Wednesday at the Downey courthouse and could face a misdemeanor charge.

“Driving under the influence is dangerous enough; on an aircraft multiply that by a factor of 10 of what could go wrong,” Villanueva said.

“It’s just very lucky that he landed in a parking lot that is a little over 2,000 feet long.”

The plane’s left wing reportedly clipped a stop sign after the landing, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. No damage was reported. Roberts’ intended destination was not known.

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An FAA inspector is expected to be at the scene Tuesday to examine the plane.

corina.knoll@latimes.com

@corinaknoll

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