Four victims in deadly El Cajon jet crash now identified: ‘Our hearts go out to their families’

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EL CAJON, Calif. – The remaining two victims killed in this week’s jet crash in unincorporated El Cajon were identified Wednesday by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The office said Julian Jorge Bugaj, 67, and Douglas James Grande, 45, died when their Learjet 35A aircraft crashed Monday night in the 1200 block of Pepper Drive. They were identified using “special fingerprinting” techniques, according to a county spokesman.

Two other victims, Tina Ward and Laurie Gentz, were not named by the office, but have been confirmed as victims by organizations linked to them.

In a brief summary provided by the office, the process continues to identify Ward and Gentz — both listed as Jane Doe — before notifying their families. They expect the two cases will take longer to resolve with one that possibly could be identified by dental records by the end of the week and the other requiring DNA testing that can take “several months.”

Gentz was identified Wednesday morning as the local union president for Massachusetts-based International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, the organization said in a social media post.

“President Gentz will be greatly missed by all who knew her and all who benefit from her selfless contributions to organized labor in the Greater San Diego area,” the post reads.

Ward, a flight nurse aboard the jet and the wife of retired Oceanside Fire Deputy Chief Joe Ward, was mourned in a social media post late Tuesday by the Oceanside Firefighters Association 3736.

“We are shocked and saddened by this devastating news and are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the union said.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are continuing their investigation into the crash. On Tuesday, an initial report by the NTSB found the small jet crashed a little more than a mile from the approach end of the runway at Gillespie Field, which was its intended destination after taking off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

Nobody on the ground was injured in the crash. One home was damaged in the aftermath and the result knocked out power for more than 2,500 San Diego Gas & Electric customers in the area.

As details continue to roll in about the crash, the local aviation and air medical communities are mourning the losses of the four victims.

Rick Mosteller, who has been a private pilot since age 19 and worked more than 15 years in the air medical industry, said, “We all pull together as a family when an accident like this occurs.”

“The community really stays focused on pilot training, maintenance and weather avoidance to reduce risk,” Mosteller said.

Mosteller now runs Cirrus Training Center focused on pilot training at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. Although he didn’t know any of the crew on board Monday’s tragic crash, he said he’s still heartbroken for the tight-knit groups of people in their respective industries.

The loss has been felt throughout the entire San Diego community with Mosteller saying, “Our hearts go out to their families.”

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