SAN DIEGO — A sudden loss of power apparently caused a light plane to crash into a Santee neighborhood last week, killing both men aboard, according to a preliminary federal investigative report released Thursday.
Residents described hearing the engine of the Piper Cherokee quit as the fixed-wing aircraft crossed overhead about 9:15 a.m. Sept. 3, according to the National Transportation Safety Board document.
The witnesses said it sounded like the pilot was trying restart the motor as the plane dropped out of a steep bank and plummeted earthward.
Flight controllers received no mayday call from the aircraft before it went down on Corte de la Donna near Paseo de los Castillos, clipped the red- tile roof of a house, crashed onto a driveway, struck three parked vehicles, flipped over and caught fire, the NTSB reported.
Aviation instructor Robert Sarrisin, 59, of Rancho Penasquitos died inside the crumpled wreckage of the four-seat plane. Flight student Jeffrey Michael Johnson, 50, of El Cajon died in a hospital about an hour later.
No one on the ground was injured.
Investigators are unsure who was at the controls of the Cherokee as it was going down and quite likely will never be able to make that determination, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.
Sarrisin and Johnson had been practicing takeoffs and landings with so- called “touch and go” maneuvers on a runway at nearby Gillespie Field in the minutes prior to the crash, officials said.
The wreckage of the plane, which is owned a corporation that operates El Cajon-based Golden State Flying Club, was taken to an Arizona facility for in- depth analysis.
A final report on the accident likely will be complete in about a year, Knudson said.