Malibu father, son among dead in fatal jet crash

Santa Monica Plane Crash

Four bodies were recovered Tuesday in the wreckage of a small jet that crashed Sunday night at the Santa Monica Airport and was believed to be carrying Malibu resident Mark Benjamin, 63, and his son Lucas Benjamin, 28.

The two Benjamins were unofficially identified as the victims Tuesday in a statement released by the elder Benjamin’s company, Morley Construction.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of Mark Benjamin and his son Lucas in a tragic accident,” the statement read in part. “Mark has been our President and CEO since 1981 and Luke was a Senior Project Engineer.”

The other two victims were women, according to KABC-TV. The bodies were charred beyond recognition and the Los Angeles County Office of Coroner is awaiting dental records provided by families of the suspected victims, according to reports.

The bodies of two cats and a dog were also found in the wreckage.

The crash happened around 6:20 p.m. when the plane collided with a hangar after veering to the right during its landing on the runway.

The hangar and the jet burst into flames and the hangar col- lapsed on top of the jet, according to officials. Due to the presence of jet fuel, the fire burned at unusually high temperatures and made accessing the site difficult. Two hangars and three nearby homes sustained minor damage when the fire spread nearby.

On Monday investigators said the pilot had not communicated any problems during the flight before the plane veered hard right after touching down and into the hangar, according to the Los Angeles Times. Investigators hope a voice recorder in the cockpit could reveal what happened.

However, the investigation into the fire by the National Transportation and Safety Board was suspended Tuesday due to the shutdown of the federal government. The agency will transport the wreckage to a secure site and resume the investigation once the shutdown ends, according to the Times.

The airport, closed since the crash, was reopened Tuesday by local Santa Monica officials.

The 2003 two-engine Cessna Citation 525 seated eight people and was registered to Crex- Mml LLC, a company with an address on Morning View Drive and owned by Mark Benjamin.

The plane took off from Hailey, Idaho at 5:15 p.m.

Benjamin is a registered private pilot who was known to fly frequently between Malibu and Idaho, where he owned a home in the Sun Valley ski resort.

Benjamin has ties to Idaho, as he is listed as a board of directors member with the Idaho Conservation League.

Benjamin also has roots in Malibu, where he is listed as a supporter of the Malibu Boys and Girls Club.

He was also a major donor to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School district, and served on bond oversight committees. He was heavily involved in the process of creating Malibu High School, former Mayor Jeff Jennings said.