A San Diego man and his young daughter were among five people killed Sunday when two light planes collided in the air and plunged to earth over farmland about 25 miles south of Sacramento.
Killed were Dennis Franich, 38, and his daughter, Katie, 11, who lived in Rancho Bernardo. Franich's brother Russell, 39, and Russell's daughter Tara, 14, also died in the crash.
Russell Franich, who lived in Agoura, was piloting the Cessna 210 when the plane collided with a Cessna 180 flown by Bennie Ray Wallace, 37, of Shingle Springs, a Sierra Nevada foothills community about 30 miles east of Sacramento. Wallace also died in the crash.
The Franiches were sons and granddaughters of Matt Franich, who in 1984 purchased California's unwanted governor's mansion in Carmichael, a Sacramento suburb.
"I hope I can live through it to support my remaining family," a stunned Matt Franich said Monday. "They were such beautiful people--hard-working, honest, with a great future."
Russell and Dennis Franich were returning to their homes in Southern California following a visit with their parents and a one-day ski trip to Lake Tahoe, Matt Franich said.
Russell Franich, president of California Audit Service, also was in town on business, his father said.
San Joaquin County sheriff's spokesman Mike Esau said the Franiches' plane collided Sunday afternoon with Wallace's plane.
The two planes plummeted to the ground, crashing about a mile apart in fields about half a mile west of Interstate 5 near the town of Thornton.
The Franich plane exploded on contact, leaving authorities convinced for a time that there were a total of six dead, five in the Cessna 210 and Wallace. They later reduced the number to five.
"'Last night we believed we had six," Esau said. "(Now) we believe reasonably that we only have the four bodies (from the Cessna 210), even though we took out five body bags."
Investigators found skiing apparel in the wreckage of the Franich plane. Wallace was returning home from a sky-diving trip to Southern California or Nevada, Esau said.
Matt Franich said his son Russell, the pilot, had been flying for 10 years.
The cause of the collision is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Matt Franich, a developer, made headlines in 1983 when he bid $1.53 million for California's unused governor's mansion, a 31-room, Spanish-style home that was built on a bluff overlooking the American River in suburban Carmichael, about 14 miles east of the state Capitol.
The house, a pet project of Nancy Reagan's, was completed in 1975, the year her husband left the governor's office.
The Reagans moved out of California's original governor's mansion in 1967, a few months after Ronald Reagan took office, and settled in a private home in east Sacramento. Nancy Reagan called the downtown Victorian mansion a noisy firetrap.
Reagan's successor, bachelor Gov. Jerry Brown, shunned the Carmichael mansion, calling it an unneeded "Taj Mahal," and moved into an apartment across the street from the Capitol.
Before he left office in 1983, Brown signed a bill requiring the state to sell the Carmichael mansion.
Brown's successor, George Deukmejian, tried to overturn the sale requirement but the Legislature refused to go along.
Franich then bought the house at a public auction. When he took possession of it, he called the sale a dream come true.
"It was designed and built for a monarch, not a farm boy like me," he said at the time. "I can't believe I own the place. I'm still trying to figure out where all the light switches are."
Initially, Franich wanted to lease the house back to the state for use by Deukmejian, but there was never an agreement on terms. Later he proposed turning the 11-acre site into a country club.
He eventually received permission from Sacramento County to add seven condos to the site, but never went ahead with that project. "We sort of put everything off," he said.
Franich and his wife, Patricia, added nearly $2 million in improvements to the house, including a 50-by-30-foot swimming pool, a 10-by-12-foot hot tub and 400 trees. They still live there.
Franich, 64, said he was getting ready to transfer his business to his sons.
"It happened so fast," he said of the crash. "They were up in the air. They called home at 1:20 and said they would be home at 3:30."
They never arrived. Authorities said a 911 call reporting the crash came in at 1:31 p.m. Sunday.