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Body of pilot found in plane wreckage after midair collision

April 29, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez
  • A victim is taken to a rescue helicopter on the Westlake Golf Course after a Cessna 172 emergency landed on the third fairway after a midair collision.
A victim is taken to a rescue helicopter on the Westlake Golf Course after… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

The body of a pilot who died in a plane crash after a midair collision has been found in the mangled wreckage of his aircraft, authorities said Monday night.

The plane plummeted into a rugged area of the Santa Monica Mountains after colliding moments earlier with another aircraft, which belly-landed about five miles away on a golf course in Westlake Village, authorities said. 

As rescuers scoured the crash site near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road, they found the body in the wreckage of the fixed-wing Cessna 172, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore told The Times. 

He said the plane appeared to have hurtled into the ground nose first, creating a small crater. The crash also sparked a fire that scorched about one acre of brush before it was quickly knocked down, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

The plane, which took off from Santa Monica Airport for an engine test, collided with the other aircraft that was coming from the opposite direction, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said in a statement.

Officials said the aircraft that landed at Westlake Golf Course was also a Cessna 172 that may also have departed from Santa Monica Airport. The three people on that plane sustained injuries described by authorities as non-life-threatening. One was taken to a hospital after complaining of back pain.

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

He said the plane clipped a tree, which spun the aircraft 180 degrees. He said the pilot seemed to land gently -- taking out only a few inches of grass and dirt.

"They landed ... in the center of the fairway," he said. "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."

The incident was being investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the inquiry.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

Twitter: @LAJourno


robert.lopez@latimes.com

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