- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

SAN DIMAS, Calif. (AP) A small plane struggling after takeoff crashed into a Fourth of July crowd at a suburban Los Angeles park, killing four persons and injuring 12, some of them children picnicking with their families, authorities said.
Three people on the ground a 12-year-old girl, a 15-month-old boy and an adult died, as did the pilot.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the crash "sounds completely like an accident," and Gov. Gray Davis said the pilot issued two Mayday distress calls after takeoff from Brackett Field, a small airport near the park.
"The wings clipped on the trees. It went nose first. Bodies flying all over the place," said witness Javier Franco. He said two girls were trapped under the plane.
"Other people took the bodies out of the plane. I can't forget seeing the bodies on the ground."
The plane hit a tree and broke in two after it crashed, witnesses said.
Michael Brand, 44, and Jackie Ton, 12, died at Pomona Valley Hospital, said Kathy Perkins, a spokeswoman for the hospital. Miss Ton was pinned under the plane's wing.
A 15-month-old boy died of head injuries at Citrus Valley Medical Center, Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Brian Jordan said.
The name of the other adult, who authorities say died at the scene, was not released last night.
A passenger on the plane survived, said FAA spokesman Jerry Johnston.
Several of the injured were in critical condition, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Mark Savage. About half of the people had minor injuries, Capt. Savage said.
Two scuba divers searched the lake to make sure there were no other victims, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy William Spear said. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
The twin-engine Cessna 310 crashed near the shore of Puddingstone Reservoir at Frank G. Bonnelli Regional Park, where hundreds of people were barbecuing and celebrating the Fourth of July. The park is about 30 miles east of Los Angeles.
People were setting up tents on the grassy area where the plane came down, said Frine Flores, who was picnicking about 300 feet away. She watched the plane crash between a picnic table and a red hammock that had been stretched between two trees.
"It was just like a big roar before it crashed and then, I can't even explain the sound at impact. It was like crunching of metal," said Miss Flores, 32, of Pasadena. "Everyone was just crying, as if it was their family that was traumatized."
By early afternoon, the scene was strewn with the plane's wreckage and the remains of holiday parties. Paper plates and cups were scattered across the ground.
A child's push scooter was propped next to a picnic table a few feet from the wreckage, and an airplane engine rested on a crumpled green lawn chair.

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