Last victim of Santa Monica plane crash officially identified

Investigators inspect the tail section of a twin-engine Cessna jet which ran off the runway and crashed into an aircraft hangar at Santa Monica Airport on Sept. 29.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office on Sunday identified the fourth and last of the victims killed in a crash last weekend at Santa Monica Airport.

The agency officially identified Lucas Benjamin, 28, of Malibu, as among the dead in the crash involving a twin-engine Cessna Citation.

Benjamin, a senior project engineer with construction company Morley Builders, was aboard the plane with his 63-year-old father, Mark Benjamin, the Los Angeles-based company’s chief executive, the firm previously said.


Everyone on board was killed when the plane touched down, veered right off the runway and crashed into a storage hangar, bursting into flames and collapsing the building.

The other two victims are Kyla Dupont, 53, of San Diego, and Lauren Winkler, 28, of Irvine.

In an earlier statement to The Times, Charles Muttillo, vice president of Morley Builders, said employees would carry on the legacy of Mark Benjamin, who had taken over the business from his father, Morley, the company’s founder.

“We are proud to be associated with the company that Mark’s family founded,” Muttillo said in the statement. “He had a profound influence on each of our employees, the Southern California landscape, our local community and the construction industry. We are committed to building on his legacy.”

Winkler was the younger Benjamin’s girlfriend, according to a blog on BusinessGhost, a ghost-writing company based in Irvine. The blog’s author, Michael Levin, described himself as being good friends with Winkler’s father.

Winkler was a fundraiser and executive at Save a Child’s Heart, an international organization that provides free open-heart surgery in Israeli hospitals for African and Middle Eastern children. According to the organization’s website, Winkler was a UCLA graduate who produced commercials in Los Angeles, New York and Tel Aviv.


The Benjamins, Winkler and Dupont were returning to Santa Monica from Hailey, Idaho, a frequent trip Mark Benjamin made as a member of the Idaho Conservation League’s board of directors. He also owned a second home in Ketchum, which is about 12 miles north of Hailey.

According to the league, Mark Benjamin last month shuttled fellow board members on his private jet to Boise, Hailey, Idaho Falls and finally Santa Monica.

The National Transportation Safety Board started an investigation the night of the Sept. 29 crash and began inspecting the plane last Monday. But investigators have paused their inquiry because of the partial federal government shutdown that began Tuesday.

Before suspending its inquiry, the agency moved the wreckage to a secure site, where it will be stored until the investigation can resume.

U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) asked Deborah A.P. Hersman, who heads the NTSB, to broaden the agency’s investigation beyond determining the cause of Sunday evening’s crash. He asked that the agency look into residents’ concerns about safety for the airport’s neighbors.

Hersman said she would take Waxman’s request under advisement.



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