Witnesses Saw Cessna Fall Apart Over Calif. Neighborhood

Pilot identified as retired Chicago cop
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2019 4:16 AM CST
Pilot in Deadly Calif. Crash Identified as Retired Cop
This Dec. 24, 2018, selfie by Julia Ackley shows herself and her father, Antonio Pastini, at Lake Tahoe near Carson City, Nev.   (Julia Ackley via AP)

National Transportation Safety Board investigators trying to determine why a small plane broke apart in mid-air Sunday, killing five people, have gathered plane parts strewn across four blocks of a California neighborhood. Four people died in a house fire ignited by one of the parts. The pilot was also killed. Investigators say the 1981 twin-engine Cessna 414A rapidly fell after reaching 7,800 feet. "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," NTSB investigator Maja Smith tells the AP. Investigators say plane parts hit around 15 or 16 homes in the neighborhood.

The pilot has been identified as Antonio Pastini, a 75-year-old retired Chicago police officer who owned a restaurant in Nevada, NBC News reports. Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Cory Martino says investigators are using DNA to try to determine the identities of the two women and two men who died on the ground. Pastini's daughter, Julia Ackley, tells NBC Los Angeles that her father, who took off from the Fullerton airport 10 minutes before the crash, had been visiting her and her daughter. She says her father was a highly experienced pilot who had recently started flying for Angel Flights, a nonprofit organization that provides free flights for people with medical issues. (Read more plane crash stories.)

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