Update: Private Jet Crash at Santa Monica Airport

Four bodies were recovered Tuesday morning from under a hangar that collapsed in a fiery plane crash at Santa Monica Airport, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.

The twin-engine Cessna Citation veered off the runway after landing Sunday and crashed into a storage hangar. The burning wreckage sent a column of black smoke over the airport as the metal hangar collapsed around the plane.

Responding fire officials described the crash and fire as “unsurvivable.”

The coroner’s office determined the remains were those of two men and two women. Two cats and two dogs also were aboard the plane.

A statement released Monday by a Southern California construction contracting company said the firm’s CEO and his son were aboard the plane. The statement from Morely Builders identified the two people as CEO Mark Benjamin and his son, Luke Benjamin, a senior project engineer with the Santa Monica-based company.

The pilot of the Cessna 525A did not report any mechanical trouble with the aircraft during its Sunday flight from Idaho to Santa Monica, Van McKenny, lead investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference.

Two cranes were required to lift the wrecked building off the plane before the bodies and cockpit voice recorder could be recovered.

The twin-engine jet took off from Hailey, Idaho, and landed at Santa Monica Municipal Airport at about 6:20 p.m. Sunday.

“There was no communication with the pilot indicting there’s a problem with the aircraft at any time during the flight,” McKenny said.

After touching down, “he veered off the right side of the runway and then as he continued down, the turn got sharper and sharper,” McKenny said.

The plane crashed into a row of five connected hangars about 400 feet from the end of the 5,000-foot runway, where it caught fire.

One hangar collapsed, its steel trusses crossing over the plane and the sheet metal shell wrapping around it, McKenny said. Two other hangars received minor damage.

Fire crews responded quickly because their station was almost directly behind the accident site. Still, “this was an unsurvivable crash,” Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. John Nevandro said Sunday night.

The NTSB has issued reports on 40 prior accidents at the airport since the beginning of 1982, according to agency data. In those accidents, 16 people died and 20 were injured.

The jet was registered to a Malibu, Calif., address and its corporate owner, Creative Real Estate Exchange, is based in Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta, according to FAA public records. The plane had no record of accidents or incidents, the FAA said.

According to the website flightaware.com, the plane made 12 flights in September, mostly within Idaho and between Idaho and Southern California. Mark Benjamin typically piloted a plane between the two states, though it is not known who was piloting Sunday’s flight.

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