“Unsurvivable” Plane Crash at Santa Monica Airport

Residents described a "boom" and column of black smoke as the plane crashed into a hangar

At least one person was killed when a small business jet crashed into a hangar and burned after landing at Santa Monica Airport on Sunday night, sending a dark plume of smoke into the air, authorities said.

Updated Article: Company IDs 2 in Santa Monica Crash

The twin-engine Cessna Citation was landing at the airport about 6:20 p.m. when it ran off of the right edge of the runway and crashed into a hangar, according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The metal hangar collapsed around the plane as fire and smoke rose from the structure.

The aircraft had departed from Hailey, Idaho. Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. John Nevandro told NBC4's Kate Larsen the crash was "unsurvivable," but didn't know how many people were on board.

[UPDATE: Monday Sept. 30, 11:41 a.m.] A Southern California construction company identified two people believed to be aboard the plane as the company's CEO and son. The statement from Morely Builders identified two people aboard the small plane as CEO Mark Benjamin and his son, Luke Benjamin, a senior project engineer with the Santa Monica-based company.

Santa Monica Airport crash

The wreckage was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, said Nevandro.


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"There were these little flames, like it could have been put out with a fire extinguisher," said witness Rachel Pollack. "Then, all of the sudden, there was an explosion. There was another explosion, and it just got bigger and bigger."

Residents told NBC4 that the plane likely would have crashed into homes had it not ended up in the hangar. The airport, surrounded by dense residential areas, is about two miles from the Pacific Ocean and six miles north of Los Angeles International Airport.

Witness Shea Bowen-Smith said she was visiting a friend a block away from the airport when she heard three loud booms.

"We heard a boom in the backyard,"  Bowen-Smith said. "We saw a huge pillar of smoke."

Crews plan on Monday to use a crane to lift the collapsed hangar and remove the plane from the wreckage while investigators probe the cause of the crash. A National Transportation Safety Board member official said crews are still in "recovery mode."

The airport runway remained closed Monday morning.

The Citation line of jets run from $3 million to $26 million and can seat five to nine people, according to the manufacturer's website.

In August, a pilot in a crash after take-off from Santa Monica Airport. The plane crashed about three miles from the airport, near Olympic and Westwood boulevards.

In August 2011, a student pilot crashed a small plane into a cinder block wall at a home about one-third of a mile west of the runway at Santa Monica Airport. The pilot was rescued from the wreckage.

Another pilot was killed in January 2009 when he attempted to return to the airport after reporting problems with his single-engine plane after take-off. The plane caught fire after crashing on the runway.

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