One pilot dies in midair collision of two Cessnas


LOS ANGELES — One pilot died after two small planes collided Monday afternoon over Ventura County, Calif., sending one plummeting into a mountainside and forcing the other to land on a golf course.

Both planes were Cessna single-engine aircraft. At least one had departed from Santa Monica Airport before crashing about 2 p.m. in the Santa Monica Mountains, according to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration. The other, which had three people on board, landed at the Westlake Golf Course. It, too, may also have flown from Santa Monica Airport, officials said.

As rescuers searched the mountain crash site, they spotted a body Monday evening in rugged terrain near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Rescue crews have “identified the wreckage of a single-seat airplane with a single occupant” who died, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

Radar information indicated that the Cessna 172s collided about eight miles east northeast of Ventura, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer. The plane that crashed in the mountains was on an engine-test flight and was heading east when it hit the other aircraft coming from the opposite direction, he said.

The crash sparked a fire that burned about an acre of dry brush before it was knocked down.

In Westlake Village, the other Cessna clipped a tree, which spun the aircraft around 180 degrees, said golfer Aaron Jesse, 47.

Los Angeles County Fire Department officials and witnesses said the landing gear was still up when that plane came down on the golf course. It ended up in the middle of the third fairway, resulting in non-life-threatening injuries to the three people on board, Sheriff’s Department officials said. One person aboard the plane complained of back pain and was taken to a hospital.

Jesse marveled that the pilot seemed to land the plane gently — taking out only four inches of grass and dirt.

“They landed … in the center of the fairway,” Jesse said. “All we heard was a thud and then he made a gentle bounce and slid down the center of the fairway, veering to the left.”

The incident is under investigation by federal authorities.