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Qualcomm executive killed in midair collision

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Michael Copeland (Twitter)

SAN DIEGO — The sole occupant of the Cessna 172 involved in a midair crash with a business jet over Otay Mesa that killed five people was identified as a Qualcomm executive.

Michael Copeland, 55 of San Diego, a recreational flier and the senior manager of marketing with wireless-communications company Qualcomm.

Qualcomm spokesman released a statement:

We are extremely saddened by the news.  Michael was a much-loved member of our team.  He was a talented marketer, brand strategist, editor and writer who helped bring Qualcomm’s stories to life.  He will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to his family.

Authorities Wednesday identified 66-year-old co-pilot James Hale of Adelanto from San Bernardino County as one of four occupants of a twin-engine Sabreliner involved in the collision.

The planes were approaching Brown Field Municipal Airport shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Hale was a contract employee for BAE Systems, which had leased the jet.

Also killed were three employees of the aerospace and defense company: John Kovach, 34; Carlos Palos, 40; and Jeff Percy, 41; all residents of the Kern County town of Mojave. They were taking part in a customer-training project at the time of the crash.

Percy was identified as a civilian pilot, but it was unclear if he was at the controls of the Sabreliner when it collided with the single-engine plane.

The wreckage of the jet ended up west of Harvest Road. The Cessna went down in an open-space preserve east of state Route 125. The accident left aircraft wreckage strewn across a field near R.J. Donovan Correction Center and sparked several brush fires.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are working to determine the cause of the accident.

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