Four Victims in Santa Monica Jet Crash Identified

Four passengers were killed in a plane crash at the Santa Monica Airport on Sept. 29, 2013: Lauren Winkler, 28, top left; Mark Benjamin, 63, top right; Kyla Dupont, 53, bottom right; Lucas Benjamin, 28, bottom left. 

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office Friday identified the two unnamed victims in last Sunday’s jet crash at the Santa Monica Airport that killed four people, including Malibu locals Mark and Lucas Benjamin. 

They are 28-year-old Lauren Winkler of Irvine, Calif., and Kyla Dupont, 53, of San Diego, Calif. 

Winkler was the girlfriend of Lucas Benjamin, 28. Benjamin’s father, Mark Benjamin, 53, also died in the crash. He was the CEO and President of Santa Monica-based construction company Morley Builders. 

The victims’ remains were uncovered Tuesday. Officials used dental records to identify the bodies. The remains of a dog and two cats were also found in the wreckage.

Multiple business websites show that Dupont owned PropArt/Dupont Design Inc, a graphic design firm in San Diego, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

The website for Business Ghost Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based company specializing in ghost writing books, featured a blog post by Business Ghost CEP and President Michael Levin, a close friend of Winkler’s father, in which he confirmed her death.

In the post he said Winkler was a fundraiser and executive with the nonprofit Save A Child’s Heart, which provided free medical care for disadvantaged children in Africa and the Middle East.

“The children Lauren’s organization serves come to Israel from 45 countries, with every conceivable heart ailment; some congenital and some induced by war,” Levin wrote. “These are Syrian children, Palestinian children, Jordanian children, and children from other nations whose governments remain in a state of war with Israel and who reject the notion of a Jewish state.”

Levin said Winkler traveled to Idaho for the weekend with the Benjamins. He said Mark Benjamin was at the controls when the Cessna Citation jet suddenly skidded off the runway and crashed into a hangar after landing at SMO. The hangar collapsed onto the jet, causing a fire that killed all onboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board is handling the investigation into the crash. Its work has been hampered by the federal government shutdown. No information on what caused the crash or who was at the controls of the jet has been released.

According to Van McKenny of the NTSB, “there was no communication (from) the pilot indicating there was a problem with the aircraft at any time during the flight.”

A witness told KCAL a tire on the landing gear might have blown out on touchdown, causing the plane to swerve to the right. “Since flight manifests for private aircraft do not require the names of the passengers, Lauren’s father, Gary, and her mother, Carole, remained in an agonizing limbo state for hours, and then two whole days, while the coroner’s office matched dental records with the bodies removed from the jet,” wrote Levin, who attended the same synagogue as the Winklers. “Lauren’s death reminds us … that our days are numbered and we don’t know how long we’ll be here. But while we’re here, we’re meant to love and serve one another.”

A previous version of this story appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press