Three found dead near wreckage of plane in remote canyon in San Diego County

A search and rescue crew on Sunday found three victims near the wreckage of a plane crash on Vulcan Mountain in remote San Diego County.
(Courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department)

A sheriff’s search and rescue crew on Sunday found three victims amid the wreckage of a plane that crashed and sparked a 12-acre fire in a remote canyon in San Diego County, officials said.

The unidentified aircraft went down in a steep canyon on the east side of Volcan Mountain about 8:40 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. Flames from the crash quickly spread and continued to burn for more than two days.

Firefighters found the plane Friday, but search and rescue team members weren’t able to make it to the aircraft until the fire was 100% contained Sunday morning.

Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Rylaarsdam said the canyon was too steep and treacherous to guide investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board to the wreckage, as they usually would. Instead, a team of sheriff’s investigators made the estimated half-mile hike and conducted the initial investigation.


The team found three victims near the crash site, but they weren’t able to recover the bodies because the winds were too high for the helicopter to fly them out, authorities said.

The victims have not been identified.

Investigators also haven’t been able to establish if the crashed plane is that of a twin-engine Beechcraft Duchess that was supposed to land at Ramona Airport on Thursday but never arrived, Rylaarsdam said.

“We haven’t positively identified the plane yet,” the lieutenant said. “I think we may be able to at some point, perhaps with a serialized part, but it’s not like there’s a plane sitting down there. There’s a debris field.”


A Beechcraft with the same tail number as the missing plane is registered to Scandinavian Aviation Academy, a flight school located at Gillespie Field, according to FAA records.

Capt. Isaac Sanchez with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said firefighters were expected to be at the crash site until at least midweek due to “heavy fuels and extensive mop-up required,” the fire agency tweeted.

Winkley Smith writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.