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The Journal Gazette

Monday, April 29, 2013 11:47 pm

1 found dead after 2 small planes collide near LA

The Associated Press

Authorities say one person has died after a midair collision over Southern California that sent one plane crashing into a ridge and forced another plane to land on a golf course.

Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore says a body believed to be the only occupant of the plane that crashed was found in the wreckage about five hours after the collision on Monday.

Federal officials say the Cessna 172 was had taken off from Santa Monica Airport to test its engine when it made contact with the other plane and crashed into mountainous terrain in Calabasas, causing a small wildfire that was put out quickly.

The other plane did a belly-flop landing on the fairway of Westlake Golf Course. The three people aboard walked away with minor injuries.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Two small airplanes apparently collided in midair over the Southern California mountains Monday, sending one crashing into a rocky ridge while the second was able to maneuver a belly-flop landing on a nearby golf course, officials said.

Three people on the plane that landed on a fairway while stunned golfers looked on had minor injuries. Rescuers searched for survivors from the fiery crash. The plane that crashed was on an engine test flight, but authorities did not know how many people were onboard at the time of the crash.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said a preliminary review of radar records showed the two flight-paths crossed just after 2 p.m. A single-engine Cessna 172 carrying three people was flying west at an altitude of 3,500 feet when the second plane, also a Cessna 172, approached from the east after leaving Santa Monica Airport for a test flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating.

Shortly after 2 p.m., firefighters responding to a report of a small wildfire spotted aircraft debris on the charred site. Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Quvondo Johnson said ground crews later confirmed that a small plane had crashed.

KNBC-TV broadcast footage of the second plane sitting on the golf course in Westlake Village. The landing gear was not visible.

FAA records show the plane on the golf course is a four-seat Cessna 172 Skyhawk manufactured in 1980. It's registered to Ameriflyers of Florida, LLC. A message left at a number listed for the company was not immediately returned.

Aaron Jesse, 47, said he had left work early to play golf with friends and saw the low-flying plane hit a tree, spin around 180 degrees and land surprisingly gently.

"Finally being a bad golfer paid off," Jesse told the Los Angeles Times. "I hit it in the trees to the right. They landed 50 feet to the left of us in the center of the fairway. All we heard was a thud and then he made a gentle bounce and slid down the center of the fairway."