Four people were killed Wednesday when the pilot of the 836 Bonanza lost control during take off and crashed into a fence before, tumbling over an embankment northeast of Corona Municipal Airport. The crash triggered a fire.
The plane crashed shortly after noon while the pilot was trying to take off from the single-runway, non-towered airport.
"The unidentified aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor told City News Service. "The aircraft was destroyed."
According to Corona police, fire crews reached the crash site within 10 minutes and found the plane in flames, which were doused after burning about a quarter-acre of brush.
No homes or other structures were in the immediate vicinity.
A witness told The Press-Enterprise the plane struck a fence, overturned and caught fire, never making it more than three feet off the ground while trying to take off.
"He didn't pull back and he was too fast at the end of the runway," Dorothe Voll, a pilot, told the paper. "And then he flipped and everybody was running and it started on fire. Then you had two explosions. … We brought over fire extinguishers but it was all engulfed."
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Gregor said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.
Dorothy Voll watched in horror.
"He took off from the ground and he just kind of porpoised but he didn't have enough speed," Dorothy Voll said.
Voll says the wings rocked back and forth as the plane struggled to take off. She says moments after it crashed it exploded.
"It had two explosions which probably were the fuel tanks," Voll said.
Pilot Matthew Keenan said he hopped into his car and floored it on the taxiway to the plane.
"I got about 10 feet but the flames were too hot to get anyone," he said.
He wishes he could have done something more to help.
"I was bawling in my car," he said. "I couldn't handle it. It was pretty tough to see.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the family."
Six incidents have resulted in 10 fatalities from 1998-2017 at the Corona Municipal airport, not including Wednesday's fatal wreck, according to NTSB data.