UPDATE, MARCH 21, 4:10 P.M.: The doomed twin-engine plane pilot who died in Wednesday morning's Long Beach Airport crash has been identified as Kenneth Earl Cruz.
The 43-year-old Culver City resident worked for Rainbow Air of Long Beach, had been a commercial pilot since 2003 and had no FAA enforcement actions on record.
Meanwhile, the FAA is countering previous reports that Cruz tried to circle back to the airport after take-off.
“That's interpretation,” says FAA spokesman Ian Gregor in a Patch.com report. “The only facts are that the plane took off, almost immediately made a fairly sharp left bank, a left turn, flew west briefly, then made a very sharp bank or dive into the airfield. There's no indication that the pilot was trying to return.”
He added there was no radio call by the pilot after take-off.
To get to the bottom of what caused the crash, the wreckage of the Beechcraft King Air owned by developer and fatal crash victim Thomas Fay Dean was transported to Palmdale last week.
Also killed were the 50-year-old Laguna Beach resident's friends who were joining him for a Utah ski trip: Jeffrey Albert Berger of Manhattan Beach, Mark Llewllyn Bixby of Long Beach, and Bruce Michael Krall of Ladera Ranch.
The condition of lone survivor Mike Jensen of Naples improved over the weekend, according to various media reports.
UPDATE, MARCH 17, 8:31 A.M.: KTLA's Morning News At 7 confirms that the Bruce Krall who perished in Wednesday morning's Long Beach Airport plane crash was the managing director of Cohen Financial in Irvine.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram identified Krall as the banker for developer Thomas Fay Dean, who also died in the inferno that engulfed his Beechcraft King Air twin-engine plane after impact. The pilot, the only person aboard the plane yet to be identified, had circled back after departure due to unknown problems.
Video of the aftermath of the plane crash, courtesy of the Associated Press, follows after the jump . . .
UPDATE, MARCH 16, 6:35 P.M.: Some media outlets have identified a fourth fatal victim of the Long Beach crash as Bruce Krall.
A man by that name is managing director of Cohen Financial, an Irvine-based, real-estate-capital services company that caters to commercial-property owners.
There was no answer at Cohen Financial this evening, but that company's Bruce Krall and Michael Jensen, the lone survivor of the crash, both attended an International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas in May 2010.
UPDATE, MARCH 16, 3:45 P.M.: Various news sites have confirmed that among the dead were Thomas Fay Dean, the owner of the crashed aircraft; his developer partner Jeff Berger; and Mark Bixby, a member of Long Beach's founding family.
They were headed to Park City, Utah, for a ski vacation. Two others who died, including the pilot, have not yet been identified. The sole survivor is Michael Jensen, who is listed in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.
“These individuals were community leaders in Long Beach,” City Councilman Gary DeLong tells the Los Angeles Times, “and they will be missed, both today and for years to come.”
DeLong added that the men who have been identified were all close friends and part of his own extended family.
Long Beach Post reports: Dean and Berger were principals at the LCW Partners development firm; Jensen is president, and Bixby was a broker at Pacific Retail Partners, which helps retailers locate properties and partners with them on projects. Bixby also served as president of Long Beach Rotary, was involved in several community organizations and was among the town's leading bicycle advocates. Jensen is active with Bay Shore Community Church, Long Beach Blast and Aquarium of the Pacific.
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, whose Fifth District includes Long Beach Airport, issued the following statement: “I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who died or were injured in today's tragic plane crash at the Long Beach Airport. I also commend the Long Beach Fire Department and the Long Beach Airport staff for their quick response to the scene and for their continued professionalism in handling the news regarding this horrible event.”
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 16, 12:26 P.M.: Five people were killed this morning when a twin-engine, Salt Lake City-bound airplane crashed at Long Beach Airport.
Six people were aboard the Beechcraft King Air that crashed on departure, according to a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Kelly Puente of the Long Beach Press-Telegram has the scoop.
The plane is reportedly owned by Thomas Fay Dean, a local developer who owns most of the Los Cerritos Wetlands in southeast Long Beach. Dean's spokesman tells Puente he does not know if the developer was aboard the plane, nor does he know who else who may have been a passenger, adding that he had been unable to reach his boss by cell phone.
Fire crews were on the scene trying to put out a blaze and extract the bodies and a possible survivor inside this morning.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
Part of Dean's wetlands land was traded to the city last year in a controversial swap that left the developer with Long Beach's former city yard near the Los Angeles River. Dean later revealed he was putting a crane-sales business there.