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Santa Monica jet crash: Four bodies to be recovered, officials say

October 01, 2013|By Joseph Serna and Dan Weikel

The Los Angeles County coroner is removing four bodies from the charred site of a fiery jet crash at Santa Monica Airport, officials said Tuesday morning.

Two of the victims were tentatively identified as Mark Benjamin, a prominent Southern California construction chief executive, and his son, Luke, 28. Morley Builders announced on its website Monday that it believed the two were on the plane and perished in the crash.

The identities of the other two bodies were not immediately available.

The Cessna Citation crashed about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, veering off the runway, slamming into a storage hangar and bursting into flames. The wreck caused the hangar to collapse, sparking a fire and killing all inside.

Officials had been unable to reach the jet's fuselage or the bodies until crews secured the site.

Van McKenny, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters Monday that after crews secure the badly burned hangar, officials will be able to access the fuselage for the first time. There was documentation indicating that a cockpit voice recorder was on board, he said.

The Cessna veered sharply off the runway, McKenny said. “As he continued down, the turn got sharper and sharper,” McKenny added.

The resulting crash was not survivable, authorities said.

McKenny declined to discuss possible reasons for the jet to have veered, saying the investigation was still in its early stages and crews had yet to access the fuselage.

The fiery crash is believed to be the first fatal accident involving a jet in the airport’s history.

The jet, which was taken off from Hailey, Idaho, could hold up to eight people, according to Cessna and registration information.

NTSB officials said they expected to gain access to the plane’s fuselage and voice recorder by Tuesday morning.


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Twitter: @josephserna

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