Riverside County airport sees 2nd fatal crash in a week

Six people were killed early Saturday morning after a small plane crashed near the runway of a Riverside County airport, the second fatal crash near the facility in the last five days.

The Cessna C550 business jet went down near the runway at French Valley Airport near Murrieta around 4 a.m. Saturday. The crash set the plane and the surrounding field on fire, destroying most of the plane, and killing all six people on board.

According to officials, the plane appeared to be privately owned, and the unscheduled flight departed Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas around 3:15 a.m. 

"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. 

Officials sadi the pilot did have a commercial pilot's license.

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.

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The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration will be on scene for the next several days collecting evidence, before transporting the plane's wreckage to a private facility. 

Saturday morning's crash is the second fatal crash at French Valley Airport in just five days. On July 4, a 39-year-old pilot was killed and his three children were injured after their plane hit the side of a building near the airport.

"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," said Patrick O'Neil, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash. 

O'Neil added that the recent crashes have the community shaken.

"They're shocked, saddened," he said. "They don't know how to take the news right off the bat. Just all in all, sad."