“I never heard a plane — all I heard was this ‘boom’ crash.”
Riverside homeowner Dave Swinfard said he was laying on his couch watching TV with one of his cats in his lap on Monday afternoon when, around 4:41 p.m., a Cessna 310 crashed into his den under unknown circumstances shortly after leaving Riverside Municipal Airport. The home, in the 6000 block of Rhonda Road about a half-mile northeast of the airport, was quickly engulfed in flames and one of two completely razed in the fiery incident.
Swinfard, who was home alone and about 15 feet away from the airplane's impact as he sat in his living room, said he had no idea what had happened but followed his instincts.
"I hear this massive ‘boom’ and my front house just caved in and I saw flames," he recalled. "I thought, ‘You know what? Time to get out of here.’ "
He immediately ran to open the front door but was greeted by whips of flames, which he said left only a small burn on his arm.
"I shut that door and went out the back. I finally made it out there," Swinfard said. "There was a lot of smoke so I opened up the door and called for my kitties, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t make it."
Swinfard, who grew up in the home and has lived there most his life, said he didn't comprehend until later an aircraft had crashed into it.
“With the airport being where it is it did flash in my mind, but when I finally got around front and looked I couldn’t see any plane so I didn’t know what it was," he recalled. "Somebody finally said that it was a plane.”
After assessing the damage, he said it appears the plane clipped his chimney, which sent it smashing into his den before skidding on to collide with the home next door as well.
After the brush with death, Swinfard said he's not in shock so much as happy to be alive.
"You know that saying, ‘All I have is the shirt on my back’? That’s me," he said. "That’s all I got.”
Others were not as lucky. At least three of the plane's five passengers have died and another two were transported to nearby hospitals with serious injuries, according to Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore. Previously, Moore had reported four fatalities and one resident involved, but he later said all victims were determined to be aircraft passengers.
Both survivors were transported to nearby hospitals with critical injuries, officials.
Authorities are still unsure who the travelers were but said it appeared to be a married couple and three teenagers who had been in the area for a cheerleading competition at Disneyland.