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Small Plane Crash Kills Calabasas Father and Son


A California personal plane crash has taken the lives of a father and son from Calabasas. The small plane crash occurred on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at around 4:00 p.m. on a private property near Thousand Oaks, California. Killed in the crash were a 57-year-old man and his 15-year-old son. Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the cause of the plane crash, though it is very rarely one factor alone that causes a plane to crash.

According to reports, the plane was seen flying low in the area immediately before the crash. As the plane neared the ground, it hit a power line, but power in the area was not affected.

James and Dylan Harlan Victims of Thousand Oaks Crash

Killed in the crash were James Harlan and his son, Dylan Harlan. They were the only two aboard the single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee, which crashed after taking off from Camarillo Airport.

“Their flight originated from Camarillo,” said Sgt. Eric Buschow, from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. “All we know is just prior to the impact the plane was flying very low. It landed in this horse arena behind us.”

Dylan Harlan was a student at Calabasas High school and had made the AAA California Titans hockey team from Simi Valley. He was considered an elite-level recruit and was also an avid surfer.

Meanwhile, James was the owner of a Calabasas-based travel agency called Uncommon Adventures. He also wrote a book called “Drifting on a Headwind.” A family friend described James as being deeply devoted to his children, while a memorial from the California Golden Bears Youth Hockey Club said James was bursting with pride over his son’s accomplishments.

Despite crashing into a private estate there were no injuries reported on the ground. Most of the debris reportedly landed in a horse arena, while part of the wing landed on an adjacent property. The plane caught fire after it crashed, but witnesses were able to put the fire out quickly.

Was Pilot Error to Blame for Southern California Plane Crash?

According to some witnesses, James was flying over the horse arena because his daughter was taking horseback riding lessons and James wanted to get her attention. However a statement from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said there was no one in the horse arena when the crash occurred, so what caused the plane to fly so low remains to be seen. Investigators are looking into whether the plane was in trouble before it hit the electrical line or if hitting the line caused the plane to crash.

“We kept watching him and he was making a lot of these sharp turns and really low to the ground. Banking left, banking right and we were keeping an eye on him,” said Anne Carter who was with her son on a ride in their own plane when the crash happened.

Witnesses Describe Small Plane Crash

Anne’s son Peter said the plane slammed into the ground.

“No debris went flying. There was no explosion, no fire. It kinda just stopped right there on the ground,” he told CBS News.

“I saw a plane flying super low,” said Gary Blackwell, who was hosting a graduation party at the time of the crash. “I heard it circle once, then twice, and then I heard a gigantic thud.”

Two Plane Crashes in Southern California in a Week

The Harlan’s plane crash was the second in the area in a week. The NTSB is also investigating a small plane crash from June 1, 2017, at around noon in which photographer Michael Brannigan was killed. According to an NTSB preliminary report, Brannigan’s single-engine Cessna broke up mid-flight while over Solimar Beach. Brannigan had left the Santa Paula airport before the crash, which left pieces of the plane across Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and on the beach.

Brannigan was a resident of Lake Sherwood. The 52-year-old was the registered owner of the Cessna 180, which was not kept at Camarillo Airport or any other airport in Oxnard. Witnesses reported seeing Brannigan’s plane collided with another plane mid-air, but investigators were not able to find any evidence of another aircraft in the area.

“In the early evening we determined there was not another plane,” said Steve Swindle, of the Ventura County Fire Department. “We had done probably five hours of searching and hadn’t found anything.”

A friend on Facebook referred to Brannigan as an amazing photographer and “the kindest, most humble man I’ve ever known.”



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