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Pilot believed dead after mid-air collision

April 29, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez
  • Wreckage of a plane crash in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Wreckage of a plane crash in the Santa Monica Mountains. (KTLA-TV Channel 5 )

One person appears to have died Monday afternoon after two small planes collided over Ventura County, sending one of them plummeting to the ground in the Santa Monica Mountains, according to preliminary information from officials.

Both planes were Cessna single-engine aircraft, one of which departed from Santa Monica Airport before it crashed about 2 p.m., according to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The other aircraft, which had three people on board, made an emergency landing at the Westlake Village Golf Course. 

The body of the pilot was sighted Monday evening in the crash area in rugged terrain near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Rescue crews have "identified the wreckage of a single-seat airplane with a single occupant who appears to be deceased," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore told The Times. 

Radar information indicated that the two Cessna 172s collided about eight miles east northeast of Ventura about 2 p.m., FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said in a statement.

The plane that left Santa Monica Airport was an engine test flight and was heading east when it collided with the other aircraft, according to the FAA. The crash sparked a fire that was quickly knocked down after burning about an acre of dry brush, officials said. 

In the Westlake Village incident, the Cessna ended up in the middle of the third fairway Monday afternoon, resulting in non-life-threatening injuries to the three people on board, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said.

County fire officials and witnesses said the landing gear was still up when the plane came down. One of the persons  aboard the plane complained of back pain and was taken to a hospital, according to authorities.

Golfer Aaron Jesse, 47, said the plane came in silently and hit the ground with a thud.

Jesse said the plane clipped a tree, which spun the aircraft around 180 degrees. Jesse marveled that the pilot seemed to land gently — taking out only four inches of grass and dirt.

"Finally being a bad golfer paid off," Jesse said. "I hit it in the trees to the right. They landed 50 feet to the left of us in the center of the fairway. All we heard was a thud and then he made a gentle bounce and slid down the center of the fairway, veering to the left."

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Twitter@anblanx |Facebook | Google +

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Twitter: @LAJourno

robert.lopez@latimes.com

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