RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - An investigation is underway in Riverside County after a plane carrying 6 people crashed near the French Valley Airport Saturday. There were no survivors.
Authorities responded to the area near Auld and Briggs roads around 4:16 a.m. on a report of a Cessna C550 business jet down in a field.
The plane, which had departed from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, was fully engulfed in flames and burned around an acre of brush in the area, officials said.
A Cessna carrying six people crashed near Auld Road X Briggs Road in field killing all six on Saturday, July 8, 2023 in Murrieta, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
All 6 people on board died at the scene, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said.
The victims have been identified as Abigail Tellez-Vargas, 33, of Murrieta; Riese Lenders, 25, of Rancho Palos Verdes; Manuel Vargas-Regalado, 32, of Temecula; Lindsey Gleiche, 31, of Huntington Beach; Alma Razick, 51, of Temecula; Ibrahem Razick, 46, of Temecula.
Photo courtesy SkyFOX
"Shortly before landing, marine layer began to envelop the area with low ceilings and visibility," said Eliott Simpson with the National Transportation Safety Board. Simpson said that the pilot told air traffic controllers that he was going to attempt a milt approach, which is usually attempted when the pilot can't see the runway.
The plane crashed about 500 feet short of the runway, and the resultant fire caused a 200-foot-long debris field. According to Simpson, the low clouds and visibility were "right at the minimums" for landing at French Valley Airport Saturday morning. Had cloud coverage or visibility been any lower, attempting to land would not have been allowed.
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.
This is the second plane crash reported this week in the same area. On Tuesday, a plane with four people aboard also crashed near Murrieta. One man was killed and three were injured when a plane struck the side of a building by the airport.
Patrick O'Neil, general manager at nearby Moon Valley Nurseries, witnessed the aftermath of Saturday's plane crash.
"The harsh conditions that we get here in the valley - this particular area, every morning it’s like a snow flurry - it’s almost like a whiteout if you’re in the hills. You couldn’t see probably 2 to 5 feet in front of you, so to try and attempt to make a landing - they probably did a couple circles, set it to autopilot, and unfortunately they didn’t make it," O'Neil said.
He added that people usually fly into the French Valley Airport for various reasons. He mentioned a recent balloon wine festival, as well as golf courses, restaurants in Old Town, and popular car shows. Most of the travelers are coming in and out of the airport for business, he said.
"I feel for the families and everyone around the close community - the people who work at the airports - this is really going to impact and affect everyone, you know? It’s sad."