YORBA LINDA, Calif.—Authorities on Feb. 6 identified four people, including an 85-year-old man, who were killed on the ground when a small plane broke apart in the air and crashed into a Southern California neighborhood last weekend.
The four victims were in a house that caught fire when parts of the plane rained down onto suburban Yorba Linda, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
Coroner’s officials identified them as Roy Lee Anderson, 85, and Dahlia Marlies Leber Anderson, 68, both of Yorba Linda; 48-year-old Stacie Norene Leber, 48, of Corona, California; and Donald Paul Elliott, 58, of Norco, California.
Property records show Roy Lee Anderson and Dahlia Marlies Leber Anderson lived at the house that burned. The victims’ relationships weren’t immediately known.
The sheriff’s department released a joint statement from family members thanking first-responders and asking for privacy.
“Our family bond is tight and each member lost in this tragedy represents more than just one role within our family,” the statement said. “We lost parents, grandparents, great-parents, spouses, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles. The home lost was a beacon for so many family and friends where many celebrations were held.”
The pilot killed Sunday was previously identified as Antonio Pastini, 75, of Nevada.
The credentials found at the crash site included false retirement papers and a police badge bearing the same number as a badge reported lost in 1978, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an email to The Associated Press.
Orange County sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun said the credentials were not legitimate but the pilot was indeed Pastini. The victims inside the home have yet to be publicly identified.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators collected parts of the aircraft, the plane’s records and information about Pastini, who was described as a commercial pilot with an instrument flight rating.
Preliminary information showed the Cessna 414A took off around 1:35 p.m. local time Sunday from Fullerton Municipal Airport, made a left turn and climbed to an altitude of 7,800 feet before starting to descend over Yorba Linda.
Weather was intermittently rainy across Southern California during the weekend, but specific conditions encountered by the flight were not immediately known.
“Witnesses say that they saw the airplane coming out of a cloud at a very high speed before parts of the airplane such as tail and subsequently wings starting to break off,” she said.
The Cessna 414A has a good reputation, said Cox, who said he has flown similar Cessnas since the 1970s. In-flight breakups are uncommon, and causes can range from metal fatigue to instrument failure and forces induced by the pilot, he said.
He said the breakup may have begun earlier than was apparent to the witnesses.
“Small pieces may have come off that are leading up to the cataclysmic breakup that people see. You need to make sure that the airplane was fully intact when they first see it,” he said. “As an investigator you have to be careful about that.”
Losing control of an airplane can also lead to a breakup, Cox said.
Photos of the wreck showing the outer portions of the wings apparently snapped off are consistent with the type of forces wings are subjected to with the loss of one or more horizontal stabilizers and when the airplane loses aerodynamic balance, he said.
Video showing puffs of smoke erupting in the sky as the plane fell were consistent with an in-flight breakup rather than an in-flight fire aboard the plane, Cox said
Witnesses described the plane as sounding like a missile or a racing motorcycle. Cox said that could be the result of the engines no longer being under control.
Observers said the plane initially appeared intact when it fell through a cloud ceiling at an altitude of about 2,000 to 3,000 feet, NTSB investigator Maja Smith said this week. Witnesses said the plane’s tail and wings broke off as it plummeted.