‘We still look up’: Neighbors feel lasting impacts of tragic Santee plane crash

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SANTEE, Calif. – Slowly but surely, the healing process has begun in Santee.

Days after a twin-engine Cessna C340 aircraft crashed in the neighborhood, killing two people and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, neighbors say they’re starting to put the pieces of their lives back together. But even as things start to return to normal, it’s not an easy process for most with a literal hole remaining in the street and a figurative hole in the community.

“Planes fly over and we still look up,” neighbor Dane Pennington said.

That sentiment was echoed over and over among people in the area Monday afternoon when the plane piloted by cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das crashed at the intersection of Jeremy and Greencastle streets.

Das, 64, died in the crash as did 61-year-old UPS driver Steve Krueger, who was pulling up to a stop sign on Greencastle Street when the aircraft struck his work truck, according to a report released Thursday by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“The aircraft continued and then collided with two homes in the neighborhood and caught fire,” the report reads.

Neighbor Trevor Henton said Monday’s feeling remains difficult to describe.

“It feels like an old Cold War movie where you hear the plane go by,” Henton said before imitating the sounds of a plane crash. “Now it’s like every single time you hear an airplane, it’s just the worry.”

When the Cessna aircraft hit his neighbor’s house, Henton remarked that it sounded like a grenade went off in his front yard. Now, much of the neighborhood is longing for some peace in the aftermath with some reporting difficulty sleeping in the days since it occurred.

“There were so many flames and it was so big,” Henton said. “I couldn’t even imagine being the firefighters trying to process it.”

Das and Krueger were honored Thursday night in a candlelight vigil in Santee where the city’s mayor John Minto said the two men “perished long before their time.”

The remains of the burned-out houses since have been fenced off and streets have reopened to traffic. It has allowed people from all over San Diego County to stop near the site to pay their respects.

For those residing close to the crash site, they’re still very much living through it.

“It was earlier today and it sounded funny,” Pennington said. “Now we think of these things.”

Pennington jumped in this week to help fellow neighbors when Wi-Fi service was cut off due to the crash. He said it will take time to heal, for him and everyone else living nearby.

“I think after a while, you’ll become numb of it again,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what: This community is awesome.”

FOX 5’s Dillon Davis contributed to this report.

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