Advertisement
California

Pilot was warned of poor weather before deadly Yorba Linda crash, investigators say

la-1550813084-rg4rju822z-snap-image
Ricardo Asensio, senior air safety Investigator with Air Safety Investigations, inspects the propeller and other pieces of a Cessna airplane outside a Yorba Linda home.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The pilot whose plane crashed into a Yorba Linda neighborhood, killing him and four people on the ground, had been warned by an air traffic controller that he was headed into bad weather, investigators said in a report released Thursday.

Antonio Pastini, of Gardnerville, Nev., died on Feb. 3 when his Cessna 414A broke apart minutes after taking off from Fullerton Municipal Airport. Four people who had gathered to watch the Super Bowl were killed when their home was struck by wreckage from the plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, and a preliminary report released Thursday does not say what caused it. A full investigation could take as long as 18 months.

Advertisement

But the report does say Pastini was warned by an air traffic controller during takeoff about “deteriorating weather” four miles east of the Fullerton airport.

Pilots were being allowed to fly in and out of the airport by sight, but rain and other foul weather over Yorba Linda required instrument-guided flight, the report said. It does not say whether Pastini switched to instrument navigation.

Pastini had previously been disciplined by the Federal Aviation Administration for flying into dangerous weather and falsely saying he was cleared and able to navigate with instruments, The Times reported. Pastini, named Jordan Isaacson at the time, had his pilot’s license suspended for 120 days in 1977.

Advertisement

His license was suspended by the FAA three years later when a judge found his plane was behind on inspections, carried only an expired temporary registration and was leaking hydraulic fluid from a brake, agency records show.

In his final flight, Pastini left Fullerton at 1:39 p.m. on Feb. 3, bound for Minden-Tahoe Airport in Nevada. He climbed 7,800 feet in five and a half minutes before his plane turned quickly to the right, hurtling toward Yorba Linda, the NTSB said. Witnesses said they saw the plane plummet through the clouds and start to break apart.

One witness, quoted in the report, said the plane streaked toward the ground, nose-down and at a 60-degree angle, for four to five seconds before trying to pull out of the dive. Pieces of the plane began to shear off, the witness said: first a stabilizer, then the tail, then the left wing.

The plane — by that point on fire — disappeared behind a hill, according to the witness, and “the sound of an explosion and large plume of black smoke immediately followed.”

The debris field was 1,000 feet long and 800 feet wide, the NTSB said. Pieces of the airplane ripped through homes like shrapnel. An alternator tore through several walls of one home and came to rest on a bathroom sink. One resident tried with a garden hose to put out head-high flames, leaping from a plane wing that had landed in his driveway.

Roy Lee Anderson, 85, and Dahlia Marlies Leber Anderson, 68, were killed when their home was struck by wreckage and set on fire. Stacie Norene Leber and Donald Paul Elliott — relatives of the couple who were visiting to watch the Super Bowl — were also killed. Two others in the home escaped with serious burns, authorities said.

Inside the charred home, the NTSB found pieces of the plane’s right wing, which contained the fuel tank. The fuselage had tumbled about 300 feet down a hill and came to rest in a backyard.

Advertisement

Neighbors said the Andersons, while in their later years themselves, were always quick to help an elderly man who lived across the street, fetching his newspapers and inviting him every evening for a glass of wine. Elliot’s pastor described him as a man of strong faith, whose appreciation for life redoubled several years ago when a truck he was fixing fell and nearly crushed him to death.

“Our family bond is tight,” the victims’ relatives said in a statement, “and each member lost in this tragedy represents more than just one role within our family. We lost parents, grandparents ... spouses, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles.”


Newsletter
Get our Essential California newsletter
Advertisement