Jet in Santa Monica Airport crash nearly hit homes, official says

Hours after a business jet crashed into a hangar at Santa Monica Airport, the chairman of an advisory commission renewed a call for city officials to reduce operations at the airport in the name of public safety.

The fiery crash occurred about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, when a twin-engine Cessna Citation coming from Hailey, Idaho, veered off the right side of the runway and crashed into a nearby storage hangar. Both the structure and the jet burst into flames, officials said, and the hangar collapsed.

A Santa Monica Fire Department official at the scene told reporters that there could not have been any survivors. The jet holds up to eight people, according to Cessna and registration information, but authorities have not said how many people were on the plane.


Early Monday morning, David Goddard, chairman of the Santa Monica Airport Commission, estimated that the crash site was about 150 feet from residences. Had the plane not hit the hangar, it could have gone up an embankment and gotten over a wall before slamming into homes, he said.

“We’ve been attempting to get the City Council to reduce operations at the airport,” Goddard told The Times. “The [assumed] fatalities were tragic, but I was certainly grateful that it happened on the tarmac ... versus off the end of the runway.”

Goddard said that at around 7 p.m. he was driving to his home in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica when he looked down Airport Avenue and it appeared as though “the fog had rolled in.”

“As we drove down we could smell the burning fuel,” he said.

Dozens of people were looking through a fence in the airport parking lot when he got there. Staring at the wreckage from about 300 feet away, he saw a piece of the plane’s fuselage lodged underneath the collapsed doors of a structure, whose steel was dented.

“Apparently the fireball was pretty big because there was brush on the north side of the building that was far away that had burnt.” Goddard said.

Late Sunday night, authorities said that the fires had been extinguished after damaging three buildings. Neighborhood advocates had also been concerned that the fire could spread to homes nearby.

The hangar fire burned at a higher temperature than most because jet fuel was involved, fire officials said. The flames then spread to two hangars nearby and caused minor damage.

The intensity of the fire and the collapsed hangar made it difficult to access the wreckage of the plane or read its tail number, which made it difficult to identify those on board, sources told The Times.

Multiple media outlets, citing authorities at the scene, reported early Monday that a crane would be necessary to lift the hangar off the plane in the morning.

Local authorities have turned the investigation over to National Transportation Safety Board officials who arrived in Santa Monica on Sunday. The federal agency expects to start investigating the wreckage Monday morning.

The Santa Monica Fire Department dispatched six fire engines and four ambulances, but none took victims to hospitals, spokeswoman Bridgett Lewis said.

The Cessna business jet is registered to Creative Real Estate Exchange LLC, according to the firm’s website. The owner of the plane lives in Malibu but is not named in FAA records.

The plane had made eight flights since Sept. 15, according to flight tracking websites, including four between Hailey and Santa Monica.


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