A twin-engine plane killed at least two people and left a swath of destruction in a San Diego suburb after it nose-dived into the ground following repeated warnings that it was flying dangerously low, according to a recording. The Cessna 340 smashed into a UPS van, killing the driver, and then hit houses just after noon Monday in Santee, a suburb of 50,000 people, the AP reports. The pilot also is believed to have died, and at least two people on the ground were hurt, including a woman who was helped out the window of a burning home by neighbors. An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to be at the scene Tuesday morning, according to an agency tweet.
The plane was heading in to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego when it crashed. Shortly before, when the plane was about a half-mile from the runway, an air traffic controller alerted the pilot that the aircraft was too low. “Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” the controller tells the pilot in audio obtained by KSWB-TV. The controller repeatedly urges the plane to climb to 5,000 feet, and when it remains at 1,500 feet warns: “You appear to be descending again, sir.” KGTV-TV, an ABC affiliate, posted video the station said it received from a viewer showing the plane arcing in the sky and then plunging into the neighborhood in a burst of flames.
The plane was owned by Dr. Sugata Das, who may have been piloting the aircraft and died in the crash. He worked at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, the hospital's chief medical officer said. Das, a licensed pilot, lived in San Diego and commuted back and forth to Yuma, according to a website for a nonprofit organization he served as director. He leaves two young sons. United Parcel Service of America Inc. confirmed one of its workers died, although the employee's name wasn't immediately released. People a block away from the scene said their homes shook from the thunderous crash. Neighbors ran to help and helped rescue a couple believed to be in their 70s from one burning home. Moments later, there were explosions inside the home.
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