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Thursday January 20th, 2022 10:09PM

At least 2 dead in California plane crash that burned homes

By The Associated Press
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SANTEE, Calif. (AP) — A small plane crashed in a densely populated San Diego suburb Monday, killing at least two people, including a UPS driver, and leaving a trail of destruction that sent neighbors scrambling to help neighbors. At least two others were injured.

Witnesses described a retired couple being rescued from one of two homes that were destroyed in Santee, a largely residential suburb of 50,000 people. Ten other homes were damaged.

Several vehicles, including a UPS delivery truck, were also torched.

“Not to be too graphic, but it’s a pretty brutal scene,” Justin Matsushita, Santee's deputy fire chief, said as firefighters searched the smoldering ruins.

United Parcel Service of America Inc. confirmed one of its workers died.

“We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends," the company said. “We also send our condolences for the other individuals who are involved in this incident, and their families and friends.”

The condition of the two injured wasn't immediately known.

Michael Keeley 43, ran barefoot outside when his home shook. He saw the UPS truck in flames and found two neighbors at a burning home calling through an open window.

With thick smoke inside the neighbors' home and flames licking the roof, Keeley stood on a rock and reached through to grab the woman's arm and help her climb out of the window. Her forearms were burned, and her hair was singed.

“She kept saying, ‘My puppy, my puppy,’” Keeley said.

Moments later, there were explosions inside the home. Neighbors knocked out fencing to rescue the woman's husband from the backyard.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to go inside with my bare feet,” said Keeley, a probation officer.

Andrew Pelloth, 30, was working from home when he heard a whirring and then a huge boom.

“My initial thought was that it was a meteorite coming down," he said. "I could hear it falling and then some kind of explosion.”

Pelloth lives across the street from the retired couple and saw the house and the delivery truck engulfed in flames. Mangled ruins of vehicles were in the couple's driveway.

Erik Huppert, 57, rushed to the couple’s home after his house shook. He joined Pelloth to pull boards off the fence to save the husband, who was walking in the backyard.

The woman and her husband were burned on their arms but were still able to walk and talk, Pelloth said.

“Both were definitely in shock, but at least they were alive,” said Huppert, a military contractor.

No one was home at the other house that was destroyed, which sold only a month ago. Pelloth said he met the new owner Monday as he arrived to see the damage.

The plane was a twin-engine Cessna C340, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

It was believed to be a private aircraft flying from Yuma, Arizona, to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, Matsushita said. It was unknown how many were on board, but Mastushita said no one would have survived.

The crash happened about three blocks from Santana High School, which said on Twitter that “all students are secure.”

The crash site is a few miles north of Gillespie Field, a small San Diego County airport.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

___

Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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