On October 11, 2021, a twin-engine Cessna C340 crashed in a residential neighborhood of Santee, California, killing the pilot and a person on the ground. Authorities say the small plane went down at approximately 12:15 p.m. local time while preparing to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in nearby Kearny Mesa.
The crash killed the pilot, Dr. Sugata Das, who worked as a cardiologist at Yuma Regional Medical Center. Dr. Das worked in Yuma, Arizona but lived in San Diego, commuting back and forth via plane. A 30-year veteran UPS driver, Steve Kreuger, was also killed.
Dr. Das had departed from Yuma and was scheduled to land in Kearny Mesa when something went wrong. In an audio recording of Dr. Das' exchanges with Air Traffic Control (ATC), the controller can be heard telling Das that the plane was flying too low.
“Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” said the air traffic controller, who continued to urge Das to climb to 5,000 feet. When the plane did not climb and stayed at around 1,500 feet, the controller again warned, “[y]ou appear to be descending again, sir.”
The small plane impacted with the ground moments later on Greencastle Street near the intersection with Jeremy Street, several blocks from Santana High School. Eye witness reports said the Cessna’s wing clipped the UPS truck, then the fuselage continued toward two houses before exploding.
Phil and Maria Morris, a retired couple living in one of the two houses engulfed in flames, both sustained injuries in the crash and subsequent fire. A neighbor pulled Maria out from one of the windows while Phil was rescued from the back yard. Both were taken to UC San Diego Medical Center for treatment.
In addition to the two destroyed properties, the plane crash damaged other houses and vehicles.
What Caused the Santee Plane Crash?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a team to investigate the cause of the plane crash in Santee. NTSB investigations typically take a year to 18 months to complete. Once officials have completed their investigation, they will release a report on the probable cause of the Santee crash. The report will also include any applicable safety recommendations to prevent crashes like this from happening in the future.
Even though there is little information to pinpoint the cause or causes of this tragic crash, it is remarkable that the pilot was unable to respond to the air traffic controller’s command to climb immediately. “Most pilots would respond without hesitation to such a command – if able” said aviation lawyer Ronald Goldman; “the fact that the plane did not climb suggests either mechanical failure or pilot incapacitation as possible causes”, he said.
Southern California Plane Crash Lawyers with Proven Track Record
Since 1985, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has earned more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements across all areas of practice. Our firm’s aviation accident attorneys have successfully litigated small plane crash cases for decades. Veteran trial lawyer Ronald L. M. Goldman took his first aviation case more than 50 years ago. Goldman and his colleagues understand what it takes to thoroughly investigate and litigate small plane crash cases to obtain justice for clients and hold any responsible parties accountable for negligence or wrongdoing.
Legal options for those harmed in general aviation accidents—either in the air or on the ground—can be difficult to navigate. Potential claimants include not just those who suffered physical harm, but also those with property damage. Those interested in pursuing a case would benefit most by working with a lawyer who has extensive experience in aviation accident law and who is familiar with the complexities of investigating, obtaining evidence, and proving liability.
Our firm has a long track-record handling aviation accidents and has represented clients in cases stemming from planes crashing into houses or commercial buildings. We represented multiple families in lawsuits stemming from a Cessna crashing into a home in Southern California. Our legal team successfully negotiated confidential settlements for each of our clients.
Another case stemmed from a Beechcraft Bonanza crashing into a residential neighborhood, killing three people. The potential causes were not apparent until our firm conducted a thorough investigation. We learned that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control made a series of errors that we alleged culminated in the airplane crashing into a home less than a mile from the destination airport. Our legal team successfully resolved the case in a confidential settlement for our clients.
If you would like to learn more about pursuing a small plane crash case, our legal team is here to answer any questions you may have. Call today at (855) 948-5098 or fill out our contact form for a free and confidential case evaluation.