SANTEE (NEWS 8) - Two people and a dog were killed Tuesday when a light plane crashed into an industrial area adjacent to Gillespie Field shortly after taking off from the El Cajon airport.
The single-engine, four-seat Cessna 182 Skylane went down into a storage lot at Cuyamaca Street and Prospect Avenue in Santee shortly before 7 a.m., San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said.
The pilot and a passenger died in the wreckage of the plane.
The pilot was identified as Dr. John Longhurst and his wife Cherill was his passenger. They owned homes in Orange County and in Montana. Dr. Longhurst worked at UC Irvine Health.
The couple would often visit San Diego to see their son Christopher - a doctor employed at UC San Diego Health.
No one on the ground was hurt.
A pair of dogs that had been riding in the plane survived the impact and were taken to an El Cajon veterinary hospital, where one of them succumbed to its injuries, said Dan DeSousa, director of the county Department of Animal Services. The family has claimed the surviving dog and it is in their possession, according to the VCA hospital.
The Cessna was headed west when it apparently lost power, Santee Fire Chief Richard Smith said. As the pilot seemingly made a futile attempt to return to the airport, the plane wheeled around, then descended precipitously and plunged into the industrial yard northwest of Gillespie Field.
Witness Zachary Hill said that he and his sister watched as the aircraft went down and rushed to help, but found that the front of the Cessna had been utterly "destroyed."
Though physically unharmed, a person who was in the storage yard when the plane crashed nearby was "shaken up" from what he saw, Smith said.
Crews with the Santee Fire Department and Heartland Fire & Rescue worked to contain a fuel spill near the wreckage.
Personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration were sent to the scene of the crash to document evidence. The government probe into what went wrong -- like all official inquiries into airplane crashes in the country -- will be handled by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Crews begin clearing plane crash wreckage in Santee: