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Long Beach Airport plane crash kills 5

March 16, 2011 12:51:49 AM PDT
A twin-engine plane crashed and burned at Long Beach Airport on Wednesday morning, killing five people onboard.

According to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration Pacific Division, the Beechcraft King Air crashed on departure just after 10:30 a.m. A Long Beach Airport spokesman said the plane had taken off, circled the airport and was landing when the crash happened.

It is unknown if the pilot reported any trouble, or why the plane circled and landed minutes after taking off.

The plane was engulfed in flames, but firefighters were able to quickly knock it down. An ABC7 viewer reported seeing a large fireball at the time of the crash.

There were six people on board at the time of the crash, fire department officials said. Five people were declared dead at the scene, and one man was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition.

Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong reported that Mark Bixby, Jeff Berger and Tom Dean were killed, and that Mike Jensen was onboard the plane and was hospitalized. Businessman Bruce Krall was also killed. Jensen is the lone survivor of the crash.

The other person killed in the crash, the pilot, had yet to be identified.

The survivor, Mark Jensen, remained in critical condition, officials said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office did not officially release the names of the people onboard pending confirmation of identities and notifications of next of kin.

"The gentlemen on that plane were outstanding individuals that I've known a very long time," said Mike Murchison, Dean's business associate. "I feel badly for their families and for their children."

Bixby comes from a well-known family for which Bixby Knolls is named.

"Mark Bixby is an icon in our community and the Bixby name speaks alone. It started the city of Long Beach," Murchison said.

The tail of the plane was separated from the body, and the entire plane was seen completely charred. A trail of about 150 yards was seen behind the wreckage, but it was unclear if it was burnt grass or mud.

The cause of the plane crash is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA.

The FAA said the plane, owned by Dean, was headed to Salt Lake City at the time for vacation.

The Beechcraft King plane is capable of carrying more than a dozen people.