California Family Members Killed in Plane Crash

The victims of a Montana plane crash were members of three California families traveling to the exclusive Yellowstone Club for a skiing vacation.

"We were going on a vacation with all the grandkids," said Bud Feldkamp, who lost two daughters and their families in the crash. "They were all excited about skiing."

Late Monday night The Channel 4 News learned that the six adults on the plane took their medical training at Lomda Linda Medical Center.

Feldkamp leased the airplane that crashed Sunday in Butte. He said he, his wife and another daughter had driven to Montana for the vacation.

"We were at the entrance to the Yellowstone Club when I got a cell phone call" from my nephew, Feldkamp said. "He saw it on CNN. He said, 'Nobody survived.' And we knew it was our plane."

Feldkamp spoke with The Associated Press shortly after he, his wife and two children along with Bob Ching and his wife spent about 45 minutes at the crash site.

Feldkamp said the victims included his sisters Amy Jacobson of St. Helena, Calif., and Vanessa Pullen of Lodi, Calif. Jacobson's husband, Erin, and their children Taylor, 4; Ava, 3; Jude, 1, also died in the crash as did Pullen's husband, Michael, and their children Sydney, 9, and Christopher, 7.

Feldkamp said Bob Ching's son, Brent Ching, of Durham, Calif., was killed in the crash along with his wife, Kristen and their children, Heyley, 5 and Caleb, 4.

Vanessa Pullen was a pediatrician, Michael Pullen was a dentist, Erin Jacobson was an opthalmologist and Amy Jacobson was a dental hygienist. Brent Ching was an orthopedic surgeon.

Feldkamp identified the pilot as Buddy Summerfield.

Investigators said Monday they will look into whether the single-engine turboprop plane was overloaded when it nose-dived into a cemetery and killed all 14 people on board.


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"It will take us a while to understand," Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference. "We have to get the weights of all the passengers, we have to get the weight of the fuel, all of the luggage."

The plane was likely designed to carry a total of 11 people, including two pilots, Rosenker said at a news conference. Officials said seven adults, and seven children were killed in the crash.

The plane was registered Eagle Cap Leasing Inc., of Enterprise, Ore. The company is owned by Feldkamp III, who also owns Hospitality Dental Group in San Bernardino. Feldkamp also is listed as president of Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California.

Making the case more complicated, federal aviation officials said the plane didn't have a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder and wasn't certified to carry commercial passengers.

The flight originated in Redlands, according to Web-based tracking system It made stops in Vacabill and Oroville.

The turboprop plane left Oroville, headed for Bozeman, Mont., but changed course to Butte, where it crashed on final approach Sunday. The pilot gave no indication to air traffic controllers that the aircraft was experiencing difficulty when the pilot asked to divert to an airport in Butte, Rosenker said in an e-mail earlier in the day.

Rosenker said there was "no indication of any trouble when the diversion was requested to ATC (air traffic control)."

The plane crashed Sunday afternoon just short of the Bert Mooney Airport in Butte. Like thousands of small airports across the country, the Butte airport doesn't have radar control.

It was the worst plane crash in America since a commuter plane last month fell on a house in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., killing all 49 passengers and a man in the home. Before the Buffalo crash there hadn't been an accident involving a commercial airliner in the U.S. in which there were fatalities in more than two years.

Rosenker confirmed that people aboard the plane were plan meet others in Bozeman, to ski.

A witness said the plane jerked to the left before nose-diving into a cemetery.

Kenny Gulick, 14, told CBS' "The Early Show" on Monday that he thought he was watching a stunt plane because the pilot was making so many turns.

"He jerked the plane to the left too quickly and lost control of it, but that's just my guess," said Gulick. "And all of a sudden it went into a nosedive. I noticed the pilot trying to pull up but he was extremely low to the ground and he didn't pull up in time."

On Monday, snow fell gently as investigators gathered before dawn at the scene of the crash in Holy Cross Cemetery, 500 feet short of Bert Mooney Airport.

With no radar at the Butte airport, a pilot approaching would normally switch to a radio frequency used by aircraft coming in and out of Butte to find out if there were any other aircraft in the area. Then the pilot would use visual flight rules and follow the procedures for landing at that airport.

The plane was a Pilatus PC-12. In Switzerland, Markus Kaelin, executive assistant to the chairman of Pilatus Aircraft, said the company had no comment.

Steve Guidoni, of Butte, was driving by with his wife when he saw the crash. "It just went straight into the ground. I went over there to try to help. I thought maybe I would pull someone out of the fire."

Guidoni said he saw luggage and seat cushions lying around, but no bodies. He said the biggest piece of the plane was the size of a kitchen table. "You wouldn't even know a plane was there," he said.

Nick Dipasquale, 19, was working at a gas station across the street. "I heard a loud bang," he said. "It sounded like someone ran into the building."

Butte Silver-Bow Sheriff John Walsh said there were a few people at the cemetery at the time of the crash, but no one on the ground was injured.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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