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The Region

2 Killed in Airplane Crash on Mountain Near Santa Paula

Accident: Bodies of a man and a woman are found in the wreckage. Aircraft was registered to an Ojai couple, but the victims' identities have not been released.

June 08, 2002|ANICA BUTLER, HOLLY J. WOLCOTT and TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Two bodies were found Friday in the wreckage of a single-engine plane that crashed on a rugged mountain slope about five miles south of Santa Paula Airport.

Recovery crews found the bodies of a man and a woman after an oil field worker spotted the wreckage of the blue-and-white plane near South Mountain Road about 11:50 a.m., Ventura County Sheriff's Department spokesman Eric Nishimoto said.

It was not clear when the 1977 Grumman AA-5B crashed. There were no reports of overdue or missing planes at the airport, said Bruce Nelson, an operations manager with the Federal Aviation Administration.

But aviation and law enforcement officials believe the plane may have taken off from Santa Paula Airport hours before the wreckage was reported.

"When we got the call, we responded with one of our helicopters," Nishimoto said. "It sounds like a pretty rugged area. We actually had to have someone from the helicopter rappel down."

Ventura County coroner officials responded to the remote crash site Friday afternoon, but there was no confirmation on the identities of the bodies by Friday evening.

The plane was registered to Ojai residents Charles Curtis, 74, and his wife Barbara Curtis, 68, according to FAA records.

The couple were seen at Santa Paula Airport on Friday morning, and their truck was parked in a hangar they had rented for the last 2 1/2 years, according to friends and airport officials.

A neighbor at the Curtis' mobile home park in Ojai said the couple, known as Chuck and Brandy, had planned to leave town for a few days.

"I just saw Brandy this morning," said a woman who lives next door but asked not to be identified. "She came over and asked if I could pick up their mail. She said they were taking their plane out of town. I told them to be careful."

Another friend said the couple had planned to fly north to Minden, Nev., near Lake Tahoe and the California state line.

"They liked flying different places and said they were looking for some place fun," Janet Schaefer said.

The Curtis' mobile home was closed tight Friday, with all the doors locked and blinds drawn.

"We're hoping they are somewhere else, not up there on that hill," said Bill Chatham, a retired Navy pilot and Santa Clarita resident.

As news of the wreckage spread through the rural airport, office workers and other employees scanned the distant mountainside with binoculars. Some pilots flew over the area to get a better look.

Rowena Mason, president of the airport association, said the Curtises were regular fliers who showed up about once a week. FAA records show Charles Curtis had a commercial pilot's license.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, Nelson said, but said it could be months before officials know the cause.

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