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Light Plane Crashes on Approach to Fullerton Airport; 2 Aboard Hurt

November 22, 1986|RAY PEREZ and ANDY ROSE | Times Staff Writers

A single-engine Grumman Tiger AA5 plane carrying a flight instructor and a student pilot experienced engine problems on its approach to Fullerton Municipal Airport Friday afternoon, clipped a tree near a school and crashed into the front lawn of a home, authorities said.

The instructor, Frank Rodriquez, 23, of Cerritos, and the student, Cecil Young, 53, of Orange, were not seriously injured, said Sylvia Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Fullerton Fire Department. Rodriquez was at the controls, she said.

The light plane left the Fullerton airport at 2:30 p.m., Palmer said. Rodriquez, who works for Wings Express Aviation at the airport, radioed the control tower at about 3:30 p.m. to say the plane had lost power and that he was attempting to restart the engine.

The plane, which is white with orange and black stripes, then clipped a pine tree on the edge of the grounds of the Fern Drive Elementary School, flipped over and landed on the front lawn of a home across the street from the school, about 1 1/2 miles northeast of the airport. There were no children at the school; classes had ended for the day about 30 minutes before the crash.

Occupants Hospitalized

Palmer said Rodriquez got out of the airplane on his own but that Young had to be removed by Fullerton Fire Department paramedics, who treated both men at the scene. The two, who suffered cuts on their heads and faces, then were transported to St. Jude Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Fullerton.

A hospital spokesman said Friday night that both were "in good shape" and would spend the night in the hospital for observation.

The plane, which came to rest 15 feet from the house in the 1500 block of West Fern Drive, was demolished. The engine broke off and also landed on the front yard, Palmer said.

Except for the tree, Palmer said, there was no damage on the ground.

Rick Sang, 16, of Fullerton, said he was driving home from school when he saw the plane go down.

"I could see it out of my side vision," he said. "It was sputtering. It hit that tree and flipped over. I got out of my car and ran up to the cockpit of the plane, just to see if they were still alive."

Sang said the two passengers were conscious. As he reached the cockpit, Sang said, Rodriquez shouted: "Help. Get this plane off me."

Harry Provance, who with his family has lived in the house where the crash occurred for 11 years, arrived home about 15 minutes after the accident. He said his older son, Ward, 18, was in the shower preparing to go to work when the plane came down.

Provance said his younger son, Chance, 17, had left for his job only 10 minutes earlier.

"His car was parked right where the plane touched down," he said. "Everybody was pretty lucky, even the men in the plane. You always hope this kind of thing never happens, but when you live (under the airport's approach pattern), there is always that chance."

Joe Brasher, an aviation safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration, said the wreck and engine were taken to a hangar at the airport where FAA investigators will make their examination.

Fullerton Police Sgt. Bud Lathrop, who was at the scene, said there are about 180,000 landings a year at the airport but that this was the first airplane to crash on approach in 10 years.

Last June 4, airborne traffic reporter Bruce Wayne was killed when his Cessna Cardinal developed engine problems and crashed on takeoff.

Wayne, 52, had guided millions of motorists through Southern California traffic snarls for 18 years. He was the traffic reporter for radio stations KFI and KOST at the time of his death.

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