The pilot who died when his small plane crashed into a West Los Angeles neighborhood Friday evening flew volunteer medical missions using his Santa Monica Airport-based aircraft, according to a friend.
He was identified by his neighbor as attorney Sean McMillan of Westchester. He had been flying charitable flights for those medically in need for about 20 years through a service called Angel Flight, the neighbor said.
McMillan's plane crashed two blocks from Olympic and Westwood boulevards at about 6:15 p.m. on Friday, sending a plume of smoke into the air and bringing dozens of firefighters and police officers to the scene – a residential neighborhood.
He was killed on impact, and his Cessna 210 broke into pieces that lay charred on the ground in an intersection, aerial video showed.
A home saw an exterior wall damaged, and a palm tree went up in flames that were quickly doused by firefighters, video from the scene showed. No one on the ground was injured.
"I know for a fact Sean would've aimed his airplane at the last moment for an empty street," said McMillan's neighbor Charlie Fredricy.
He said that McMillan volunteered with Angel Flight, and the organization confirmed it had a pilot named. Online records showed McMillan was 70.
"Sean McMillan is the kind of person that would give you the shirt off his back," Fredricy said.
Neighbors at the crash site said they were grateful that McMillan's plane missed hitting any homes and any people on the ground.
"We're lucky and thankful ... He must have been an experienced pilot to do what he did," said West LA resident Louis Litsa.
A hand-written card left at the scene of the crash said "I watched your last few second of life, and I prayed for you! I saw you saved lives by your effort."
The State Bar of California lists an M.S. McMillan as a lawyer at the Century City-based firm of Greenberg Traurig. The firm's website lists a Sean McMillan, pictured at right in an image from the firm's site, as a shareholder who is a member of Angel Flight.
The bar listing for McMillan says he had an undergraduate degree from USC and a law degree from Harvard University.
On Friday, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that the plane had declared an emergency after departing Santa Monica Airport, about 3 miles southwest of the crash site.
Neighbors near the crash site – in the 2100 block of Glendon Avenue (map) – said planes going to and from the airport frequently fly overhead.
The plane "flew around for an unknown period of time, and was coming back to land when the accident occurred," said the FAA's Ian Gregor on Friday.
Multiple witnesses said they saw the plane flying low before it crashed.
FAA records for the aircraft said it was a fixed-wing, single-engine Cessa 210 that was manufactured in 1978.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board removed the wreckage early Saturday. Some flowers had been left on the site.