A pilot whose single-engine plane missed his ranch's runway and crashed into the Chino Hills died of burns Monday, a day after the crash.
The Sunday evening accident touched off a 125-acre brush fire that was extinguished by about 200 firefighters from Riverside and San Bernardino counties. A passenger was burned in the crash but survived.
Firefighters used bulldozers and four-wheel-drive engines to ascend the steep hills on the west side of California 71 just north of the San Bernardino-Riverside county line, near Euclid Avenue. The fire was contained about 1 a.m. and extinguished by 6 a.m. Monday, officials said.
The first firemen on the scene found pilot Richard Bradford, 48, at the bottom of a steep hill below the plane, with flames from the brush fire advancing toward him.
Volunteer Fire Capt. Raymond Russell raced down to drag Bradford away, said Franklin Sexton of the Chino Fire Department. Bradford had managed to free himself from the wreckage of the plane and then put out the flames on his clothes by rolling down the hill, Sexton said.
Russell said he put out some of the flames between him and Bradford in order to reach the injured pilot, then dragged him to safety in an area that the fire had already blackened.
Bradford, a Corona resident, was airlifted to San Bernardino County Medical Center with a broken leg and burns over 90% of his body. He died Monday morning.
His passenger, Sandra Hill, 21, was taken by ambulance to the burn unit of UCI Medical Center in Orange. She was reported in fair condition Monday with second- and third-degree burns over about a fifth of her body, on her face, arms, feet and right side, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The crash occurred at 7:30 Sunday evening as Bradford was trying to land his Piper Super Cub on the private runway of his Chino Hills ranch, authorities said. Bradford apparently was blinded by the sun as he tried to land, said Mark Chipman, Riverside County firefighter.
He apparently "undershot the runway on approach," San Bernardino County Deputy Coroner Linda Stokes speculated. His plane crashed into the brush-covered hillside and exploded on impact.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the crash but would not comment on the cause.