Southern California Plane Crash

Fire crews work the scene of a small plane crash, Monday, in Santee, Calif. At least two people were killed and two others were injured when the plane crashed into a suburban Southern California neighborhood, setting two homes ablaze, authorities said.

SANTEE, Calif. (AP) — Recordings indicate the pilot of a twin-engine plane nose-dived into a San Diego suburb despite a growingly concerned air traffic controller who repeatedly warned the pilot to climb in altitude — information that will be examined by investigators who arrived at the crash scene on Tuesday.

The Cessna 340 smashed into a UPS van, killing the driver, and then hit two houses just after 12 p.m. Monday in Santee, a suburb of 50,000 people east of San Diego.

United Parcel Service of America Inc. planned to hold a moment of silence Tuesday for van driver Steve Krueger who was remembered for making work better with his laugh, the company said in a statement. The plane’s owner, an Arizona physician, also died, and an elderly couple whose home went up in flames after it was hit suffered burns.

It was unclear whether others were on board the plane.

An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the crash scene Tuesday morning, according to agency spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris.

Investigators will review radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, airplane maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records, she said.

The plane had planned to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego when it crashed. Shortly before the crash, when the plane was about a half-mile from the runway, an air traffic controller alerted the pilot that the aircraft was flying too low.

“Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane,” the controller told the pilot, in audio obtained by KSWB-TV.

The controller repeatedly urged the plane to climb to 5,000 feet, and when it remained at 1,500 feet, the controller warned: “You appear to be descending again, sir.”

KGTV-TV, an ABC affiliate, posted video that the station said it received from a viewer showing the plane arcing in the sky and plunging into the neighborhood in a burst of flames.

The plane was owned by Dr. Sugata Das, who worked at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, the hospital’s chief medical officer said.

Das, a licensed pilot, lived in San Diego and commuted back and forth to Yuma, according to a website for the Power of Love Foundation, a non-profit organization that he directed and is involved in helping women and children overseas that are infected or affected by AIDS and HIV.

He had two young sons.

“As an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man, Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy legacy,” Dr. Bharat Magu said in a statement. “We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues, and friends during this difficult time.”

UPS said it would hold a moment of silence for Krueger to pay respect to his loved ones at 12:14 p.m. Pacific time, marking the time the plane was believed to have crashed into the van.

“Those who knew Steve said he took pride in his work, and his positive attitude and joyful laugh made the hardest days a little lighter,” the company said in an emailed statement emailed to The Associated Press. “Steve was held in high regard and will be greatly missed.”

People a block away from the scene said their homes shook from the thunderous crash.

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