Four Contra Costa County residents and a Los Angeles man have been identified as the five people killed aboard a twin-engine plane that crashed Sunday in a parking lot in Santa Ana near Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza mall, officials said.
The Cessna 414 went down at about 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of a Staples store in the 3800 block of South Bristol Street, according to Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority. The site is just northeast of South Coast Plaza, near the boundary of Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.
The Orange County coroner’s office Monday morning identified the victims as Navid Hakimi, 32, of Los Angeles, Floria Hakimi, 62, of Danville, Scott Shepherd, 53, and Lara Shepherd, 42, of Diablo and Nasim Ghanadan, 29, of Alamo.
Scott Shepherd was the pilot of the plane, the coroner’s office said.
As the plane crashed, it hit an unoccupied vehicle, but no one on the ground was injured, Concialdi said.
The pilot declared an emergency before the plane went down, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board will work to determine the cause of the crash.
“I don’t know anything about what this pilot did or what he was thinking, but it could have been much more tragic,” said OCFA Capt. Tony Bommarito. “This is a Sunday afternoon and we had people shopping, so the fact that there were no injuries on the ground is a miracle in itself.”
The aircraft was heading to John Wayne Airport about two miles southeast of the crash site, airport spokeswoman Deanne Thompson said.
According to FlightAware.com, the plane left Concord in Contra Costa County at 10:23 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive at John Wayne Airport at 12:30 p.m.
FAA records show the plane was owned by Category III Aviation Corp., a real estate consulting firm in San Francisco.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Lara Shepherd, Floria Hakimi and Ghanadan were Realtors with Pacific Union International, a real estate brokerage firm that focuses largely on Northern California but began doing business in the Los Angeles area this year. Scott Shepherd, Lara Shepherd’s husband, was a real estate developer in the Bay Area, according to her profile on the Pacific Union website.
The Shepherds are survived by two children, according to Lara’s profile on the real estate site.
Witnesses said they saw the plane turn before it suddenly began to dive into the shopping center.
A dashcam on a vehicle captured the moment before the plane dove near Sunflower Avenue and South Bristol.
Ella Pham, 20, of Santa Ana said she and her boyfriend were leaving the parking lot to go to South Coast Plaza when they noticed the aircraft.
“We looked up to see the plane falling nose first,” she said. “We really didn’t think it was a plane at first due to no crashing noise, but as soon as we saw people running from across the street, we went to go check it out.
“It was so heartbreaking just seeing the plane crumbled into pieces.”
Pham said there was no explosion, a detail that fire officials also noted during a news conference.
“A lot of people tried to help until they saw that it was hard to get inside the aircraft. But by the time people stepped away, firefighters and police were there,” Pham said.
The sound of the impact could be heard inside nearby businesses.
“I was working and I hear a loud thud,” said Christian Tornero, an employee at a store in the area. “I thought it was like a semitruck that just tipped over or something.”
Kathy Hayden, who was shopping nearby, said it sounded like a large truck running over something, until she saw mangled remnants of the plane.
“There was just nothing left and you could smell the gas,” she said.