3 dead, more hurt after plane crashes into Riverside homes

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A small plane crashed into two homes, leaving one a gutted shell, shortly after departing the Riverside airport late Monday afternoon in an incident a witness a mile away said felt like an earthquake.

Police began receiving phone calls about 4:41 p.m. regarding a plane crashing near a residential area at Central and Streeter avenues, Riverside Police Department Lt. Charles Payne said.

At least three victims have died, including one resident, and two people were transported to nearby hospitals with serious injuries, according to Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore. There another three to five residents unaccounted for for whom rescue crews were still searching, he added.

Two homes were completely destroyed with adjacent residences suffering moderate damage, Moore said.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said a Cessna 310 -- a six-seat, twin-engine plane -- had departed from Riverside en route to San Jose when it crashed under unknown circumstances about a half-mile northeast of Riverside Municipal Airport.

One of the plane's passengers, a teenager from the San Jose area, was ejected and has been transported to Riverside Community Hospital with minor injuries, according to Moore.

"Upon impact, the plane pretty much split apart and luckily she was ejected [with] very minor injuries even though we’re treating her as a critical patient," he said.

The passenger told firefighters there were five people on board and they were in the area for a cheerleading conference taking place at Disneyland this week. The other four passengers' fates were still unclear, Moore said.

 

"The other victims are scattered throughout the wreckage and we’re unable to determine if they were victims from the residences or from the aircraft itself."

Firefighters believe the plane's occupants were two adults — a husband and wife — and three teenagers, at least one of whom was related to the adults.

Responding fire crews also found one victim in a home and extricated the patient, who was transported to Arrowhead Memorial Hospital in San Bernardino in critical condition, according to Moore. The patient was unconscious and unable to relay information to first responders, he said.

Flames and smoke were pouring from one home, which looked completely destroyed as firefighters continued to work after sunset. Debris was strewn across the home's front yard.

A neighboring home had damage as well, with its chimney apparently destroyed.

The inferno was mostly fuel-related as the plane had a "pretty full tank," according to Moore. It took just minutes for one home to burn to the ground, he said.

Firefighters were working throughout the evening to continue locating and extricating residents and assessing the neighborhood to clear it of remaining debris. At least one block of Dewey Avenue was evacuated, affecting upwards of 40 houses, Moore said.

"The building I was in shook like a very short, small earthquake," H.L Reyes said on Twitter shortly after the plane struck the home.

Witness Brian Marsh told KTLA said he saw the plane go down as he and his wife were driving with their children west on Central toward Streeter Avenue.

The plane made a northbound turn before the crash, Marsh said.

“As soon as it turned, it almost stalled,” Marsh said. “It just turned and went straight toward the ground. It looked like they tried to pull out of it, but it was too late.”

He said he saw no smoke or flames coming from the plane before the impact, which occurred when it was drizzling outside.

"It's horrible," Marsh said. "My kids, the first thing they said to me was, 'Did everyone make it? And I told them, I said, 'Honey, there's no way that everyone survived that crash.'"

Marsh's wife called 911 and police arrived in less than two minutes, he said.

The crash location is in a residential area of Riverside, a little under 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Evacuees were being directed to nearby Nichols Park, Payne said.

He said he saw no smoke or flames coming from the plane before the impact, which occurred when it was drizzling outside.

"It's horrible," Marsh said. "My kids, the first thing they said to me was, 'Did everyone make it? And I told them, I said, 'Honey, there's no way that everyone survived that crash.'"

Marsh's wife called 911 and police arrived in less than two minutes, he said.

The crash location is in a residential area of Riverside, a little under 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Evacuees were being directed to nearby Nichols Park, Payne said.