An Orange County man and woman died early Saturday when their single-engine plane crashed just after takeoff from Big Bear City Airport, authorities said.
John Marshall, 47, of Newport Beach, was piloting the 1956 Mooney M-20 when it crashed at 6:57 a.m., the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department reported. The name of his passenger was being withheld until the San Bernardino County coroner's office could notify her family.
The plane took off about 6:50 a.m. and headed west, but Marshall then turned south for unknown reasons, according to a Sheriff's Department news release.
The plane hit the treetops south of Big Bear Boulevard, also known as State Road 18, tearing off part of the right wing, investigators said. The plane turned upside-down and crashed on a vacant, rocky hillside between two large pine trees, about one-third of a mile from the airport, investigators said. Wreckage was scattered over 200 feet of the hillside.
Marshall and the woman were dead when firefighters and paramedics arrived, the release said.
Investigators have not found evidence of a flight plan, nor an indication that Marshall radioed any air-traffic facility to report trouble, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Wayne Pollack said.
Big Bear airport has no control tower, he said.
Pollack said the plane had fuel. It was daylight when it took off, and weather at the time was overcast, Pollock said.
He said it will take several months to determine what caused the crash.
John Wayne Airport spokeswoman Kathleen Campini Chambers said she did not know if the plane originated at the Orange County airport or was headed there when it crashed.