KFI's "Eye in the Sky" flying traffic reporter Bruce Wayne was killed when his small plane crashed and exploded shortly after takeoff today from Fullerton Municipal Airport.
Wayne's wife, Lois, rushed from her home to the scene of the accident and calmly broadcast a description of the crash over radio station KFI, where her husband worked. She then recounted details of his nearly 25-year career as an airborne traffic reporter to news people who gathered at the crash site.
After authorities placed the charred body in a body bag and put it on a stretcher, Lois Wayne touched the bag, knelt beside it and recited the Lord's Prayer.
After the crash KFI suspended its regular programming and began taking telephone calls from listeners and others paying tribute to the dean of Los Angeles' flying traffic reporters.
Authorities said the Cessna Cardinal 177 developed engine problems shortly after takeoff at about 6:15 a.m. Moments later, the plane struck the top of an unoccupied semi-tractor trailer in an industrial area half a mile east of the runway and burst into a fireball.
The largest distinguishable part of the wreckage was the plane's engine, which came to rest a few feet from the trailer.
Although authorities withheld identification of the pilot, Lois Wayne and airport manager Rod Murphy said it was Wayne, a 52-year-old Fullerton resident and KFI's air traffic reporter of 16 years. Wayne also reported for KOST, sister station to KFI.
Gave Detailed Account
Murphy and Lois Wayne also provided the most detailed account of the accident.
Wayne had made a morning traffic report from the ground at about 6 a.m. for KFI. As he prepared to take off--in clear but overcast weather conditions--he made another report at about 6:15 a.m.
A short time later, officials at KOST called KFI, reporting that they had not heard from him and could not raise him by radio. Wayne missed a 6:45 a.m. KFI traffic report and the station began calling authorities to inquire about him. They were apparently notified of a plane crash by Fullerton police.
A Fullerton city employee told police he was about half a mile east of the runway when he heard a plane taking off. The aircraft's engine sputtered and backfired, and then the plane veered left and plummeted to the ground from an altitude estimated at 500 feet, the witness said. Authorities believe the crash occurred between 6:15 a.m. and 6:18 a.m.
Seen by Driver
The Cessna plunged into the trailer rig parked at the back of a wholesale food warehouse. A driver at another warehouse, waiting to unload his truck, told authorities he saw the plane hit the trailer and explode.
In his lengthy career, Wayne flew over all of Southern California, but his home base was the Fullerton Airport.
In two weeks, Wayne would have celebrated his 25th year as an air traffic reporter, making him the longest surviving airborne traffic reporter in the country, his wife said.
"He had made his commitment to it, and he was proud because he had survived so long," Lois Wayne said as she stood near the plane wreckage, speaking to a group of reporters in a calm voice.
"It meant everything to him and he worked very hard to keep his job. He kept himself in good physical condition so he could continue flying."
After the media interviews were over, a few hours after the crash, she became more emotional and tearful.