Additional bodies found in building hit by plane

Sunday, June 8, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Two more bodies were found Saturday in the burned wreckage of an apartment building where a small private plane crashed, raising the death toll to four, officials said. Seven people on the ground were injured, one critically.

Officials did not know if the bodies were those of passengers in the plane or residents of the apartment building, said coroner's investigator Mario Sainz. Authorities said Friday's crash was believed to be an accident, but the cause had not been determined.

Emergency workers picked through the wreckage for possible victims Saturday, but Fire Capt. Bill Wick said all 17 people believed to have been inside the 15-unit building had been accounted for.

Residents also began returning to retrieve their belongings, saying they were grateful to be alive.

Kevin Du Toit, 28, picked up clothing and medicine for his two young sons, along with family photos, including his wedding album. He had been at work when the plane hit.

His children, ages 2 and 3, normally would have been napping in the apartment at the time, but their mother had taken them to a park.

"It's a great day. It's a blessing. It's a miracle, that's what it is," he said. "Because my kids should have been sleeping, and their bedroom is right next to where the plane went straight through."

Without explanation and without reporting any problems to the control tower, the plane plunged nose-first into the building about a block from Fairfax High School, where kids were playing on the field, and not far from a synagogue and an area of trendy shops.

The crash terrified residents in Fairfax district, an area of quiet, older neighborhoods and trendy shopping areas near West Hollywood.

Larry McQuillen returned to his smoke-smeared apartment and carried out a plastic bag filled with clothing. McQuillen said he was reading a book in bed when the plane hit.

"Big explosions shook the building -- actually snapped off my door frames," he recalled. "I opened the door and there was fire toward the front of the hallway. We grabbed the dogs and got out."

The plane was believed to be a six-seat, single-engine aircraft that took off from Santa Monica Airport about 10 miles away, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Donn Walker.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tealeye Cornejo said no flight recorder had been found in the wreckage and investigators did not yet know who owned the plane, believed to be a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza BE-36.

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