A fire official monitors the scene of a small plane crash on Monday, October 11, 2021, in Santee, California. At least two people were killed and two others were injured when the plane crashed in a suburb of southern California, setting two houses on fire, authorities said.

Photo AP / Gregory Bull

SANTEE, Calif. (AP) – A twin-engine plane that killed at least two people and left a strip of destruction in a San Diego suburb plunged into the ground after repeated warnings that it was flying dangerously low, according to one recording.

The Cessna 340 crashed into a UPS van, killing the driver, then struck homes Monday afternoon in Santee, a suburb of 50,000. The pilot is also believed to have died and at least two people on the ground were injured, including a woman who was helped through the window of a burning house by neighbors.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was scheduled to be at the scene Tuesday morning, according to a tweet from the agency.

The plane was preparing to land at the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego when it crashed. Shortly before, when the aircraft was about half a mile from the runway, an air traffic controller alerted the pilot that the aircraft was too low.

“Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the plane,” the controller told the pilot in audio obtained by KSWB-TV.

The controller repeatedly asked the aircraft to climb to 5,000 feet and when he remained at 1,500 feet he warned, “You seem to be coming down, sir. “

KGTV-TV, a subsidiary of ABC, posted a video the station said it received from a viewer showing the plane forming in the sky and then plunging into the neighborhood in a flurry of flames.

The plane was owned by Dr Sugata Das, who may have flown the plane 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 traveled back and forth to Yuma, according to a website of a nonprofit organization of which he was a director. He leaves behind two young sons.

United Parcel Service of America Inc. has confirmed that one of its employees has died, although the employee’s name was not immediately disclosed.

People one block from the scene said their homes were shaking from the thunder.

Neighbors ran to help and helped save a couple who are said to be 70 years old from a burning house.

Michael Keeley, 43, ran barefoot outside and saw flames engulf the UPS truck and a house around the corner. He joined two neighbors of the burning house to call through an open window.

With thick smoke inside the house and flames licking the roof, Keeley reached out the window to grab a woman’s arm and help her out. His forearms were burned and his hair was scorched, he said.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to go in barefoot,” said Keeley, a probation officer.

At the same time, other neighbors tore down the couple’s fence to save the woman’s husband from the backyard.

Keeley said after the couple escaped onto the sidewalk, the woman asked for help with her dog who is believed to be inside the house.

“She kept saying, ‘My puppy, my puppy,'” he said.

But a few moments later, there were explosions inside the house. The group helped the couple walk a safe distance until the paramedics arrived.

Andrew Pelloth, 30, lives opposite the couple and was working from home when he heard a purr and then a huge boom.

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

Pelloth looked outside and saw the UPS truck on fire. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and then joined other neighbors who removed the planks from the couple’s fence to rescue the woman’s husband.

Erik Huppert, 57, who ran to help after his house shook, said he saw the man walking in the yard after removing the boards.

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

No one was at home in the other house that was destroyed, which was sold only a month ago, Pelloth said.


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