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2 Men, 2 Children Killed in Catalina Crash Are Identified

January 01, 2004|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

Four of the five people killed in a Christmas Eve plane crash on Santa Catalina Island were identified Wednesday as a Rancho Palos Verdes man, a French national and two children visiting from France with their mother, who also was killed. She was identified earlier as Francine Gaume, 44.

The deputy consul general at the French Consulate in Los Angeles, Olivier Plancon, said an uncle in France had identified the children as Justine Gaume, 8, and Lucas Gaume, 6, who were aboard the Piper Seneca with their mother when it crashed while attempting to land at the island's Airport in the Sky.

Gaume, a widow, and her daughter and son had been visiting fellow plane passenger and friend Patrice Alin Duclos, 34, a French citizen living in Long Beach with his American wife, Plancon said.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office on Wednesday also positively identified the fifth victim as Scott Eric Hegger, 35, of Rancho Palos Verdes. Public records list him as president of a Manhattan Beach corporation called Fly To Golf Adventures Inc.

The bodies of Hegger and Duclos were found in the front seats of the plane, but the coroner's office said it did not know who had been flying it when it took off at 9:54 a.m. Dec. 24 from Long Beach Airport. The plane crashed at 10:20 a.m.

The French consular said the Gaumes had lived just outside Arcachon, a city of 55,000 on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in southwestern France. Not far from the larger city of Bordeaux, it is a popular tourist destination for the French.

"It is my understanding that the children's father died a couple of years ago," Plancon said. "Mrs. Gaume's brother-in-law was the next of kin.

"We are in contact with the Gaume family," he said, "and we will help them organize the repatriation of the bodies to France."

Encountering light rain when the plane neared the airport, the pilot reported his visibility too poor to land, authorities said. Moments later, the plane crashed at 2,000 feet into the adjacent mountain and burst into flames, killing all five aboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation to determine what caused the crash could take months, officials said.

The burned wreckage delayed positive identification of the victims, a process that require dental records, in this case located overseas in offices that were closed during the holidays, the coroner's office said.

The plane was owned by Golf Inc., a corporation registered in Carson City, Nev., for which Hegger is listed as company secretary. The FAA said he is listed in preliminary notes as being the pilot at the time of the crash.

Hegger filed no flight plans -- most people do not -- nor was he briefed on the weather that day, said FAA spokesman Donn Walker.

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