Two dead after midair plane collision

Wendi Werner and husband Steve Dunn took this photo of a plane executing a controlled emergency landing at a Westlake golf course Monday as people run to help.  

The pilot and a passenger of a small-engine Cessna were killed when the plane crashed in a Malibu canyon on Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed. 

Their identities have not been released. Whitmore also said three people sustained “minor injuries” when a plane that clipped the Cessna mid-air made an emergency landing in Westlake Village. All three were treated and walked away from the scene.

Update, 7:27 p.m.: A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed that a midair collision between two airplanes occurred Monday near Malibu and appears to be the cause of a one-acre fire that broke out in a remote area of Malibu Canyon. One of the planes, which reportedly carried three people, crashed in Malibu Canyon. The condition of the passengers is currently unknown. The second plane landed on the West Lake Village Golf Course. 

FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the information was preliminary and subject to change in a statement. 

“There was an midair airplane accident Monday 4/29/13 northwest of Santa Monica, CA,” Kenitzer wrote in an email. “The first airplane, a Cessna 172, N4677V, was west bound at 3500FT. The second airplane, also a Cessna 172, who had just departed Santa Monica for an engine test flight, was east bound at 3100FT. According to FAA radar data, the flights merged approximately 8 MILES east northeast of Ventura, CA , at 2:01 PDT. The first airplane landed on the West Lake Village Golf Course. The second airplane crashed into mountainous terrain. The crash started a 1 Acre fire.”

Update, 7 p.m.: Motorists should expect delays in and out of Malibu on Las Virgenes Road/Malibu Canyon Road due to sherif and fire department activity, according to a sheriff’s department update. 

Update, 6:20 p.m.: Firefighters have fully contained the brushfire at Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road.

Nearby on a Santa Monica mountainside, investigators are examining wreckage from a Calabasas plane crash that may be related to the brushfire. Authorities have not found any victims or survivors in the small plane’s charred remains.

“It was a very bad crash, there are no markers or anything to identify anything on that plane,” said Fire Inspector Qvondo Johnson. “It doesn’t look good.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is at the scene investigating. Tomorrow the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will arrive to comb the scene, Johnson said.

Update, 4:56 p.m.: The brushfire near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road is 70 percent contained.

Traffic is down to one lane on Malibu Canyon Road and Las Virgenes Canyon Road after a downed tree fell over a power line between Piuma Road and Mulholland Highway. Authorities do not believe the downed tree is related to Monday afternoon’s plane crashes. Maintenance crews have responded to repair the damage.

“A tree went down and took some wires down with it. I don’t believe they’re related,” said Dep. Port of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. 

Update, 4:25 p.m.: A one-acre brushfire has been visibly knocked down and is 35 percent contained, according to Inspector Johnson of the L.A. County Fire Department. Johnson said fire crews are “forming a ring” around the fire to put it out fully in the area near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road.

Nearby, Johnson said crews were also conducting a search and rescue operation on wreckage from a plane that crash landed near the fire. Some form of debris was found at the scene of the brushfire, but Johnson said the department had not determined if it was debris from the nearby plane crash.

Johnson could not confirm reports that the plane that crashed in the Mulholland Highway area had clipped a plane that crashed around the same time in Westlake Village.

The brushfire and plane crash has shut down traffic on Malibu Canyon Road from Mulholland Highway to Piuma Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Update, 4 p.m.: Capt. Tom Richards of L.A. County Fire confirmed that “some form of wreckage” was found in the brushfire area and crews were still determining if it came from either of two small planes that crash landed in the area, one in Westlake Village and another in Calabasas. 

As firefighters work to put out a one-acre fire burning in the Malibu area near Mulholland Highway and Las Virgenes Road, early reports indicate the brushfire may have been caused by falling airplane debris.

The brushfire was reported just after 2 p.m. in a remote Malibu Canyon location off of Mulholland Highway, which has made the flames difficult for firefighters to access, according to Inspector Johnson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. As of 3:30 p.m., three helicopters were fighting the fire as “hand crews” made their way on foot to the area. Johnson said a total of 115 firefighters were at the scene.

Shortly after the fire was reported, a small plane crash landed in Westlake Village. Multiple sources told The Malibu Times that the fire was likely sparked by falling debris from the plane.

Johnson said investigators were on their way to the scene of the brushfire to determine the cause. 

“We don’t know if it’s debris from the plane, debris from that plane clipping another plane, or something totally different,” Johnson said.