Wreckage of a plane crash in the Santa Monica Mountains. (KTLA-TV Channel 5 )
A plane crash in the Santa Monica Mountains on Monday afternoon may be connected to an incident in which a small plane made a forced landing in Westlake Village about the same time, authorities said.
The crash of the plane in rugged terrain near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road occurred shortly after 2 p.m., about the time that a fixed-wing Cessna 172 RG landed on its belly at the Westlake Golf Course, according to officials.
"It appears that the two incidents may be connected," Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told The Times.
He added that a final determination will be made by the National Transportation Safety Board, which Whitmore said had dispatched a team that was expected to arrive Tuesday morning.
Officials said there were no immediate reports on victims in the crash.
The incident sparked a small fire in the parched mountainside brush, officials said. The brush fire was reported at 2:05 p.m., and that the downed aircraft at Westlake Village was reported five minutes later, according to Whitmore.
Golfer Aaron Jesse said he and his friends were told by a deputy to leave the course. The deputy said authorities were responding to another crash near Mulholland where there were fatalities, according to Jesse.
Firefighters were searching for victims Monday evening and had the one-acre fire about 75% contained, fire officials said. The effort was going slowly because fire crews had to be careful not to destroy any possible evidence as they mopped up the blaze.
"We don't want to go through there and contaminate any evidence," Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Quvondo Johnson told The Times.
In the Westlake Village incident, the Cessna ended up in the middle of the third fairway, resulting in non-life-threatening injuries to three people, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said.
County fire officials and witnesses said the landing gear was still up when the plane came down. Three people were aboard the plane, one of whom complained of back pain and was taken to a hospital.
Jesse, the golfer, told The Times that the plane came in silently and hit the ground with a thud.
He 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."