Santa Monica plane crash: 4 bodies found in wreckage


The bodies of two men and two women were recovered from the plane. Their names have not yet been released. Mark Benjamin, 63, CEO and president of Morley Builders, and his son Luke Benjamin, 28, a senior project engineer at the company, were believed to be aboard the small private jet.

Two cats and a dog were also recovered from the plane wreckage.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board has arrived at the crash site. On Monday, two huge cranes were brought in to remove heavy steel trusses covering the twin-engine Cessna 525A, and much of the charred wreckage was pried from the hangar that collapsed on top of it.

The plane crashed around 6:20 p.m. Sunday after departing from Hailey, Idaho. It touched down at the airport, veered off the runway and crashed into a hangar, bursting into flames. An NTSB official said there was no communication with the pilot indicating any kind of problem prior to landing.

NTSB investigators say there is a voice recorder on the plane, but they have not been able to recover it yet. They're hoping it will shed some light on what happened.

As soon as the wreckage was removed around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, takeoffs and landings resumed at the airport.

Although the victims' identities have not been released, Morley Builders said in a statement Tuesday that it is "heartbroken at the loss of Mark Benjamin and his son Lucas in a tragic accident."

"We are proud to be associated with the Company that Mark's family founded. He had a profound influence on each of our employees, the Southern California landscape, our local community, and the construction industry. We are committed to building on his legacy," the company said.

Morley Builders is a well known construction company throughout Southern California. It has offices in Santa Monica, Irvine and San Diego. It's been a business since 1947.

Morley Builders was the general contractor for the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The company also built the Santa Monica Public Library. It's currently building the new home of the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center at Exposition Park.

The crash has raised more concerns about having an airport in the middle of a crowded residential area. When the airport was built in the 1920s, it was surrounded by farm land. The residential neighborhoods surrounding the airport sprouted up decades later.

"The crash occurred 150 feet away from houses. I mean, that's the really scary thing. In the two years that we've lived here, there have been two crashes. There was one two blocks away and then this one," said Santa Monica resident Stacey Abrams-Sherick.

A 30-year land and building agreement between the city of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration will expire in 2015.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) on Tuesday sent a letter to the FAA to request immediate action to address safety concerns.

"The people of Santa Monica - and especially those living next to the airport - deserve your full attention. They have been warning for years that the airport is an accident waiting to happen. The tragic crash on Sunday illustrates how inadequate safety measures jeopardize the surrounding community and endanger pilots and passengers," Waxman wrote in the letter.

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