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Victims IDed in Long Beach plane investigation

March 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Investigators are looking for the cause of a fiery plane crash that killed five men and critically injured another in Long Beach Wednesday.

Passenger Mike Jensen is hospitalized in critical condition.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating Wednesday's crash at Long Beach Airport.

Investigators are trying to determine where the five who died were located inside the plane when it crashed and exploded into flames and where Jensen was found in the wreckage of the Beechcraft turboprop aircraft.

Ronald Childers says he's known Jensen for years and he's shocked he survived the crash.

"Just a really nice man and it's just a terrible tragedy what happened," said Childers. "I don't know how he even survived."

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday morning at Long Beach Airport. Those onboard were heading for a Utah ski trip.

Those who died include 50-year-old Long Beach developer and owner of the plane, Tom Dean, who lived in Laguna Beach; 51-year-old Ladera Ranch resident Bruce Krall; 49-year-old Jeffrey Berger of Manhattan Beach; and 44-year-old Mark Bixby of Long Beach, a member of the family for which the upscale Long Beach neighborhood of Bixby Knolls is named. The pilot of the plane has been identified as 43-year-old Kenneth Cruz of Culver City.

The family of Mark Jensen issued a statement, which says, in part: "Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the families of Mike's friends aboard the plane with him. Thank you for the outpouring of support and overwhelming compassion shown by so many throughout the community of Long Beach."

Federal aviation investigators are not expected to have a preliminary report on what caused the plane crash for weeks.

Ronald Childers says, being a former pilot, he wants to know how such a tragedy happened.

"It had to be obviously a mechanical problem somewhere and something went wrong," said Childers. "I don't know if they adequately pre-flighted the aircraft before it took off or they got it up and something happened."