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Mon, Jan 21, 2008

Midair Collision Over SoCal Leaves Five Dead

C150, C172 Hit One Mile From KAJO

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 01.21.08 1515 EST: We're learning a little more about the aircraft involved in Sunday's fatal midair collision over Corona, CA, though the identities of the victims remain unknown at this time.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports one of the aircraft, identified as a Cessna 172, is registered to William A. Reinke of La Habra, CA. FAA databases show three C-172s and a C-182 registered to that name.

Reinke himself was not onboard the aircraft. Reached at his home by the paper, Reinke declined to say who was onboard the accident plane. "I only know what happened off the television," he said.

The second aircraft, a Cessna 150, is registered to Air Corona, based in Dover, DE. The company has two C-150s, and two C-172s, on the FAA registry.

Concrete aircraft identifications may need to wait until Tuesday, when the FAA releases preliminary accident information. The agency did not update its online database Monday due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.

Original Report

Investigators are scrambling to determine why two small GA planes collided Sunday afternoon over Corona, CA, killing four persons onboard the two Cessnas and a fifth on the ground.

Wayne Pollack, investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the Cessna 150 and Cessna 172 collided about one mile from Corona Municipal Airport (KAJO) at approximately 1535 PST, in clear weather conditions. Each aircraft had two persons onboard, reports The Los Angeles Times.

"The severity of the impact is fairly high," Pollack said.

Witness Doug Champion, an off-duty Orabge County sheriff's deputy, said he first saw the planes from about a mile away. "They looked like they would run into each other," he said, acknowledging that perception from the ground is often an optical illusion... but it wasn't this time.

The planes were traveling in converging directions, Champion said. The northbound aircraft appeared to hit the other plane, similar to "what you see in a T-bone traffic accident if someone runs a red light," he said. "There was no explosion or fire... They just hit, broke up and fell from the sky."

The impact lead to the in-flight breakup of one aircraft. The second suffered wing damage, causing it to spiral to the ground.

Debris from the accident landed on a row of automobile dealerships along Wardlow Row in Corona, raining down in an area of about 300 square yards. A second debris field was found about 1,000 yards from the dealerships.

The victim on the ground was an employee at an area Chevrolet dealership. The man was hit by debris that fell through a roof, according to another worker who identified herself as Yvonne.

Pollack said parts from a cockpit, propeller and instrument panel were among the parts that fell through the dealership's roof.

Identities of the victims, and the N-numbers of the aircraft involved, have not been released. ANN will update this story throughout the day as more information becomes available.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.ntsb.gov

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