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Neighbors: Plane 'sounded like a missile' as it broke apart

Published
A National Transportation Safety Board worker takes a photo of an engine that came to rest against a house on Crestknoll Dr. in Yorba Linda, Calif on Monday, February 4, 2019. The debris field from a small plane crash a day earlier covered several blocks with one home catching fire. The pilot and four people on the ground died. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)

YORBA LINDA, Calif. (AP) — A small plane shook homes and "sounded like a missile" as it broke apart and rained chunks of metal into a Southern California neighborhood, igniting a house fire that killed four people, witnesses said Monday.

The pilot, a retired Chicago police officer living in Nevada, also died Sunday. Investigators were collecting pieces of the plane that fell into homes across about four blocks in Yorba Linda, a community southeast of Los Angeles.

"The witnesses I've spoken with say that they saw the airplane coming out of the clouds — it was still in one piece — and then they saw the tail breaking off and then the wing breaking off and then something like smoke before the airplane impacted the ground," said Maja Smith, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Those witnesses did not report an explosion while the twin-engine propeller-driven Cessna 414A was in the air, she said.

Antonio Pastini, 75, of Gardnerville, Nevada, was the only person aboard, Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Cory Martino said.

Authorities were trying to identify the people who died in the house, describing them only as two males and two females. Martino said DNA may be required because of the condition of the bodies.

Two other people were hospitalized with moderate injuries, he said.

Yorba Linda resident Dave Elfver said he was getting ready to go to a friend's house to watch the Super Bowl when he heard a whining sound "like a motorcycle going a hundred miles per hour."

"The whole house shook. I thought it was an earthquake, but the whining sound didn't make any sense."

Elfver, 75, said he ran to his backyard and saw a house engulfed in flames. He ran toward it along with a crowd of neighbors, and only then he saw an airplane wing in the street.

"I didn't realize what it was until I ran around the corner," he said Monday.

Across the street, one of the columns of a neighbor's home was collapsed and debris from the plane was strewn throughout the street. Another home had broken windows.

Shawn Winch, 49, said he was in his backyard when he heard what "sounded like a missile coming at my house." He said he saw the plane veer off and debris falling.

"It wasn't intact," he said as the plane came toward the neighborhood. "It was already breaking up."

The aircraft, which can carry up to eight people, took off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport about 12 miles (19 kilometers) away, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.

Preliminary radar data shows the plane reached about 7,800 feet (2,377 meters) and then rapidly fell, said Eliott Simpson, a NTSB investigator.

The main cabin of the airplane and one engine were found at the bottom of a ravine in the backyard of a house, and the other engine made a hole in the street, Simpson said.

The property where the fuselage ended up is about three houses down from the home that burned. It was not immediately clear what set the two-story house ablaze.

A portion of the plane's right wing had not been found, and investigators would search the burned house, Smith said. The Cessna 414A carries fuel in its wings.

John Cox, an aviation consultant, is confident investigators will figure out why the plane broke apart. Aircraft involved in mid-air breakups leave "fingerprints" — tell-tale signs — in the metal that will allow investigators to "build a sequence of the breakup that will lead them back to where it originated," said Cox, a former commercial pilot who's head of the consulting firm Safety Operating Systems.

Video showed panicked residents running to the house as flames and dark smoke engulfed it. One man used a garden house to douse a burning wing that landed on the street.

Some tried to run into the burning house, but explosive sounds came from its garage and neighbors called them off, Winch said.

Clint Langford said he was in his living room when he heard a frightening sound.

"It's the eerie, low rumbling sound that keeps getting lower and louder. It was scary," he said. "And then all of a sudden boom. It shook the house."

Video from news helicopters showed plane parts scattered on roofs and driveways. Smith said at least 15 homes had debris.

Investigators will look into the maintenance record structural integrity of the aircraft, as well as the pilot's record, Smith said. The wreckage will be transported to Phoenix, Arizona, for a forensic examination.

___

Associated Press journalists John Antczak, Amanda Lee Myers and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Firefighters work the scene of a deadly plane crash in the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed in Yorba Linda shortly after taking off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
A resident looks at debris that hit a house after a small plane crashed into a neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Investigator examine a burned out house on Crestknoll Dr. in Yorba Linda, Calif on Monday, February 4, 2019 after a small plane came apart in mid-air and crashed a day earlier. The debris field from the crash covered several blocks with one home catching fire. The pilot and four people on the ground died. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)
Damage and debris from a small plane crash is shown in front of a home in Yorba Linda, Calif., Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Five people died and two were injured after a small plane apparently came apart Sunday over a suburban Southern California neighborhood, raining debris on streets and backyards and igniting a house fire, authorities said. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
Dave Elfver, 75, talks Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 about the plane crash in his Yorba Linda, Calif., neighborhood Sunday, Feb. 3. He said he was getting ready to go to his friend's house to watch the Super Bowl when he heard a whining sound
Residents look at the debris that hit their home after a small plane crashed into the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Firefighters work the scene of a deadly plane crash in the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed in Yorba Linda shortly after taking off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
This Dec. 24, 2018, selfie by Julia Ackley shows herself and her father, Antonio Pastini, at Lake Tahoe near Carson City, Nev. Pastini, who had also gone by Jordan Isaacson and was known for years as Ike, was killed while piloting a small plane that crashed into a house in Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. (Julia Ackley via AP)
Dave Elfver, 75, talks Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 about the plane crash in his Yorba Linda, Calif., neighborhood Sunday, Feb. 3. He said he was getting ready to go to his friend's house to watch the Super Bowl when he heard a whining sound
Dave Elfver, 75, talks Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 about the plane crash in his Yorba Linda, Calif., neighborhood Sunday, Feb. 3. He said he was getting ready to go to his friend's house to watch the Super Bowl when he heard a whining sound "like a motorcycle going a hundred miles per hour." Then, he said, came the explosion. "The whole house shook. I thought it was an earthquake, but the whining sound didn't make any sense." The pilot, the lone occupant of the plane, and four people in the home that burned, not shown, died. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
A resident looks at debris that hit a house after a small plane crashed into a neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
A resident looks at debris that hit a house after a small plane crashed into a neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Residents look at the debris that hit their home after a small plane crashed into the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Residents look at the debris that hit their home after a small plane crashed into the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Dave Elfver, 75, talks Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 about the plane crash in his Yorba Linda, Calif., neighborhood Sunday, Feb. 3. He said he was getting ready to go to his friend's house to watch the Super Bowl when he heard a whining sound
Dave Elfver, 75, talks Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 about the plane crash in his Yorba Linda, Calif., neighborhood Sunday, Feb. 3. He said he was getting ready to go to his friend's house to watch the Super Bowl when he heard a whining sound "like a motorcycle going a hundred miles per hour." Then, he said, came the explosion. "The whole house shook. I thought it was an earthquake, but the whining sound didn't make any sense." The pilot, the lone occupant of the plane, and four people in the home that burned, not shown, died. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
Firefighters work the scene of a deadly plane crash in the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed in Yorba Linda shortly after taking off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Firefighters work the scene of a deadly plane crash in the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed in Yorba Linda shortly after taking off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Damage and debris from a small plane crash is shown in front of a home in Yorba Linda, Calif., Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Five people died and two were injured after a small plane apparently came apart Sunday over a suburban Southern California neighborhood, raining debris on streets and backyards and igniting a house fire, authorities said. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
Damage and debris from a small plane crash is shown in front of a home in Yorba Linda, Calif., Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Five people died and two were injured after a small plane apparently came apart Sunday over a suburban Southern California neighborhood, raining debris on streets and backyards and igniting a house fire, authorities said. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
Residents look at the debris that hit their home after a small plane crashed into the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Residents look at the debris that hit their home after a small plane crashed into the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
A resident looks at debris that hit a house after a small plane crashed into a neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
A resident looks at debris that hit a house after a small plane crashed into a neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. A few people died and a few others were injured after the plane apparently came apart, dropping parts that scattered across a suburban neighborhood and ignited a house fire before landing in a backyard, witnesses and authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Catherine Paulson, 78, stands in front of her Yorba Linda, Calif., home that has a piece of aircraft wreckage piercing the roof Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. She said she wasn't home when the plane went down and a piece landed in the tree right above her roof Sunday. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
Catherine Paulson, 78, stands in front of her Yorba Linda, Calif., home that has a piece of aircraft wreckage piercing the roof Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. She said she wasn't home when the plane went down and a piece landed in the tree right above her roof Sunday. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
A National Transportation Safety Board worker takes a photo of an engine that came to rest against a house on Crestknoll Dr. in Yorba Linda, Calif on Monday, February 4, 2019. The debris field from a small plane crash a day earlier covered several blocks with one home catching fire. The pilot and four people on the ground died. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)
A National Transportation Safety Board worker takes a photo of an engine that came to rest against a house on Crestknoll Dr. in Yorba Linda, Calif on Monday, February 4, 2019. The debris field from a small plane crash a day earlier covered several blocks with one home catching fire. The pilot and four people on the ground died. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)
This Dec. 24, 2018, selfie by Julia Ackley shows herself and her father, Antonio Pastini, at Lake Tahoe near Carson City, Nev. Pastini, who had also gone by Jordan Isaacson and was known for years as Ike, was killed while piloting a small plane that crashed into a house in Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. (Julia Ackley via AP)
This Dec. 24, 2018, selfie by Julia Ackley shows herself and her father, Antonio Pastini, at Lake Tahoe near Carson City, Nev. Pastini, who had also gone by Jordan Isaacson and was known for years as Ike, was killed while piloting a small plane that crashed into a house in Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. (Julia Ackley via AP)
Catherine Paulson, 78, leads investigators to her Yorba Linda, Calif., home that has a piece of aircraft wreckage piercing the roof Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. She said she wasn't home when the plane went down and a piece landed in the tree right above her roof Sunday
Catherine Paulson, 78, leads investigators to her Yorba Linda, Calif., home that has a piece of aircraft wreckage piercing the roof Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. She said she wasn't home when the plane went down and a piece landed in the tree right above her roof Sunday "It's just devastating," she said of the crash, adding she was lucky they weren't home at the time and the debris didn't go through a window or the roof. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
Investigator examine a burned out house on Crestknoll Dr. in Yorba Linda, Calif on Monday, February 4, 2019 after a small plane came apart in mid-air and crashed a day earlier. The debris field from the crash covered several blocks with one home catching fire. The pilot and four people on the ground died. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)
Investigator examine a burned out house on Crestknoll Dr. in Yorba Linda, Calif on Monday, February 4, 2019 after a small plane came apart in mid-air and crashed a day earlier. The debris field from the crash covered several blocks with one home catching fire. The pilot and four people on the ground died. (Paul Bersebach/The Orange County Register via AP)
Firefighters work the scene of a deadly plane crash in the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed in Yorba Linda shortly after taking off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Firefighters work the scene of a deadly plane crash in the residential neighborhood of Yorba Linda, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration said a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed in Yorba Linda shortly after taking off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)