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Santa Monica plane crash: NTSB releases preliminary findings

October 24, 2013|By Joseph Serna

The tires of a twin-engine Cessna that crashed at Santa Monica Airport last month were inflated and showed no signs of unusual wear, federal investigators have determined, debunking an early theory on what may have caused the plane to veer off the runway and into a hangar.

There was also no debris on the runway, and the Federal Aviation Administration control tower reported that the pilot “did not express over the radio any problems prior to or during the landing,” according to a preliminary report on the Sept. 29 crash released this week by the the National Transportation Safety Board.

Everyone on board was killed when the plane touched down, veered right off the runway, hit a runway sign and crashed into a storage hangar, bursting into flames and collapsing the building.

The four victims were Mark Benjamin, 63, his son Lucas Benjamin, 28, the younger Benjamin’s girlfriend Lauren Winkler, 28, and Kyla Dupont, 53.

The Benjamins, Winkler and Dupont were returning to Santa Monica from Hailey, Idaho, a frequent trip Mark Benjamin made as a member of the Idaho Conservation League’s board of directors. He also owned a second home in Ketchum, which is about 12 miles north of Hailey.

According to the league, Mark Benjamin last month shuttled fellow board members on his private jet to Boise, Hailey, Idaho Falls and finally Santa Monica.

The NTSB's investigation began the night of the crash, and its officials began inspecting the plane the day after. The probe was put on hold for more than two weeks when most federal workers were furloughed during the recent government shutdown.

Investigators restarted their work last week, agency spokesman Keith Halloway said.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) asked Deborah A.P. Hersman, who heads the NTSB, to broaden the agency's investigation beyond determining the cause of the crash, requesting that the agency also look into airport safety concerns raised by those living near the facility.

Hersman said she would take Waxman's request under advisement. 


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Twitter: @josephserna

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