Officials on Monday identified five people killed after the small plane they were on the day before crashed in a Santa Ana parking lot.
Authorities said the Cessna 414 aircraft—registered to a San Francisco real estate firm—went down at 12:28 p.m. on Sunday at the parking lot of a Staples store in the 3900 block of Bristol Street, about two miles away from its destination, John Wayne Airport.
The plane left the Buchanan Field Airport in Concord at 10:23 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive at the Santa Ana airport at 12:30 p.m., according to FlightAware.com.
"The pilot declared an emergency, however, he did not state the nature of the problem," Albert Nixon, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference on Monday.
Victims include three coworkers, a husband and a son
The victims include Navid Hakimi, 32, of Los Angeles; Floria Hakimi, 62, of Danville; Nasim Ghanadan, 29, of Alamo; Scott Shepherd, 53, and Lara Shepherd, 42, both of Diablo, according to the Orange County Coroner. There were no other passengers on the plane.
Floria Hakimi, Lara Shepherd and Ghanadan all worked at Pacific Union, a real estate firm, their colleague Brian Morgan confirmed. Floria and Lara were realtors, while Ghanadan was a real estate consultant.
Morgan described Floria as a "generous soul" and "amazing person" who lived to help people, both in her professional and personal life. “It was never too much that she couldn’t give,” he said.
Ghanadan, Morgan said, was someone who would light up any room. “Nasim was just joy wrapped inside a person," he told KTLA. "She was amazing.”
Laura was a “wonderful wife and mother to her kids,” ages 5 and 7, Morgan said.
Scott Shepherd, who the coroner identified as the aircraft's pilot, was her husband. According to Morgan, he was an accomplished pilot.
“We’ve talked to people who’ve flown with him, who know who he is, and they’re just dumbfounded,” he said.
The women were heading to Anaheim for a motivational real estate conference, Tom Ferry's Success Summit.
Navid Hakimi was Floria's son. He was in the Bay Area visiting his mother and joined her for the flight back to the Los Angeles area, where he lived with his partner and their 2-year-old child, friends said.
Courtney Zellhoefer, who used to DJ with Navid, said he would be sorely missed.
“He was kind and generous and talented and beautiful and supportive," she told KTLA. "We’re listening to his music now because his music was beautiful.”
Investigators probing what caused crash landing in parking lot
The crash did not ignite a fire, and nobody on the ground was hurt.
Matt Robinson, an aviation expert with the Southern California Safety Institute, said the minimal evidence of a post-crash fire suggests there was minimal fuel on board at the time.
The driver of a car struck by the aircraft was shopping inside Staples at the time, according to O.C. Fire Authority. Three other vehicles were hit, NTSB said.
KTLA spoke with a man who said he saw the plane drop out of the sky.
"It was nosing down too steep, so it was coming forward, and then it was just in our vision and then all of a sudden we could see the belly of the plane and the bottom of the wings, and then it almost cartwheeled straight down," Gary Sparks said.
Others also described the horrifying sights and sounds at the scene.
"I was working and I hear a loud thud," said Christian Tornero, who worked at a store in the area. "I thought it was like a semi-truck that just tipped over or something."
A woman shopping nearby said it sounded like a truck was running something over until she saw the plane.
"There was just nothing left and you could smell the gas," Kathy Hayden said.
According to O.C. Fire Authority, a group of firefighters having lunch across the street jumped on their truck and rushed to the scene after one of them heard screaming.
"And somebody — one of the patrons — yelled, and they looked up and saw the plane coming down towards the parking lot," agency spokesman Steve Concialdi said.
All of the victims were declared dead at the scene, according to O.C. Fire Authority.
The mangled aircraft remained at the parking lot on Monday morning as officials worked on determining the cause of the crash. Later that evening, crews were seen loading the wreckage onto trailers and hauling it away.
Federal transportation investigators are looking at factors such as the pilot's level of experience, whether there was enough fuel on board, or if there was an engine failure and how any of that may have contributed to the deadly crash.
NTSB said it expected to have a final report in 12 to 18 months, but will issue a preliminary report much sooner — possibly as soon as next week.
KTLA's Alexandria Hernandez and Erika Martin contributed to this story.
Correction: A previous version of this story misquoted an official. This post has been updated.