Federal investigators say the small business jet that crashed near El Cajon Monday evening had recently taken off from Orange County with four people on board, but questions remain about the plane’s occupants.
Officials with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said on the night of the crash that firefighters “were not able to find any survivors” after the jet crashed in the Bostonia area east of El Cajon around 7:15 p.m., KTLA sister station KSWB in San Diego reported.
As the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board began their probe into the crash Tuesday morning, they deferred to local authorities for any firm confirmation about the passengers’ identities and whether there was a chance anyone survived the crash.
On Tuesday night, the Oceanside Fire Department confirmed on Instagram that one of the victims was Tina Ward, the wife of recently retired Fire Chief Joe Ward.
“We are shocked and saddened by this devastating news and are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the department said.
The other nurse on the flight was identified as Laurie Gentz, according to a post from Tina Ward prior to the plane’s departure.
In the meantime, federal investigators’ initial reports shed some new light on the crash.
Rick Breitenfeldt, an FAA spokesperson, confirmed the aircraft was a Learjet 35 business jet that had departed John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana and was headed to Gillespie Field Airport in San Diego County with four people on the plane.
“The FAA and NTSB will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide all updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents,” Breitenfeldt said.
For their part, the NTSB had few details to share on the crash early Tuesday.
“The first NTSB investigator is expected to arrive on scene this morning,” agency spokesperson Peter Knudson said. “Two more investigators will arrive later today. Local authorities will provide information related to the accident victims.”
No one was hurt on the ground but one home was damaged and power lines were knocked down in the area, the sheriff’s department said, causing more than 2,500 San Diego Gas & Electric customers to lose power after the crash. That number had been reduced significantly by early Tuesday.