Paramedics rushed two men to the hospital in San Bernardino, Calif., Monday morning (Feb. 8) after their twin-engine plane crashed into an RV storage facility just about two miles away from San Bernardino International Airport, The Sun reported.
The men, Lonny W. Rollins, 39, of San Luis Obispo, and Greg Fitzgerald, 61, of Paso Robles, were listed in “critical and serious” condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center Monday afternoon, said Jason Serrano, spokesman for the San Bernardino Fire Department. The Beechcraft Baron BE55, built in 1969 and registered to Rollins, departed from San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The pilot planned to land at the San Bernardino airport, according to flight records.
The pilot reported a problem with the plane’s landing gear at 11:45 a.m. and circled the airport, according to the FAA.
“The plane crashed a minute or so later in an RV storage yard,” said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The aircraft struck a canopy at RV Storage USA on Tippecanoe Avenue north of San Bernardino Avenue, damaging about 12 storage units on the north end of the property.
San Bernardino firefighters — who were stationed nearby to watch an unrelated flight — watched the plane fall from the sky, Serrano said.
Serrano initially reported at the scene that the plane took off from San Bernardino International Airport shortly before the crash. He later deferred to Gregor’s report that the plane never touched down at San Bernardino airport, but instead was circling the airport before crashing.
“Our guys did see a plane take off,” Serrano said. “Shortly after, they witnessed a plane go down. According to the FAA, they were not the same aircraft.”
Firefighters saw the Beechcraft Baron head west away from the runway, veer south and crash about 100 yards from passing traffic on Tippecanoe Avenue.
The pilot and passenger, both men, suffered injuries. One of the men was ejected from the plane’s cabin on impact of the crash, Serrano said.
A teenage boy pulled the remaining man from the cabin, but left the scene before giving a statement to fire or police officials, Serrano said.
“I wish we had his name,” he said. “We’d call him a citizen hero.”
“There were a couple pedestrians on Tippecanoe,” said Mike Rolfes, owner of the four-acre storage business that houses about 250 RVs. “They saw the plane go down. They hopped the fence and I think they tried to help the passengers of the plane.”
The witnesses ran to a security guard trailer, and let the guard know about the crash. Police, firefighters and other emergency personnel came to the scene, finding snapped power lines and at least 10 gallons of fuel leaking from the crashed plane.
No one else was injured, authorities said. But as the plane crashed so close to a busy highway, the incident “could have been significantly worse,” Serrano said.
Rolfes said no boats or RVs were parked inside the units hit by the plane, but some recreational vehicles in adjacent units may have sustained damage.
Gregor said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash. It could take about a month to find a probable cause.