Government shutdown halts NTSB probe into Santa Monica jet crash

Officials for the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that their investigation into the crash of a private jet Sunday evening in Santa Monica has been suspended due to the federal government shutdown.

The agency, however, is recovering the wreckage of the Cessna Citation 525 and moving it to a secure site, where it will be stored until the investigation can resume.

Local authorities, meanwhile, haven’t stopped working. The airport was expected to reopen to air traffic by Tuesday afternoon and the Los Angeles County coroner said its office recovered four bodies and three pets -- two cats and a dog -- from the crash site in the morning.

Two of the victims were unofficially identified Monday when Los Angeles-based construction company Morley Builders announced its chief executive Mark Benjamin, 63, and his son Luke, 28, were believed to have been on the plane.


The two other passengers were women, according to KABC-TV.

Authorities have tentatively identified the four victims, a coroner’s official said, but are awaiting confirmation through dental records provided by the victims’ families.

The private jet touched down at Santa Monica Airport Sunday evening then steered hard right off the runway and smashed into an airport hangar then burst into flames about 6:20 p.m. The crash collapsed the hangar and the fire spread to two neighboring buildings.

No one on board survived. The bodies were charred beyond recognition so the coroner’s office needs dental records to confirm who the victims were, said Lt. Fred Corral.


Investigators said Monday that it was too early to tell what caused the plane to veer hard-right off the runway after touching down. The pilot had not communicated any issues with the plane during the flight, the NTSB said. Investigators hoped the plane’s voice recorder could shed light on what went wrong.


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