New Reports on Santa Monica Plane Crash

After a delay caused by the recent two-week-long government shutdown, federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have provided a preliminary aircraft accident report of the fatal plane crash which occurred at Santa Monica Municipal Airport on September 29, 2013. The crash resulted in four fatalities, including the pilot and three passengers.

Early reports had speculated that problems with the plane’s tires had caused the accident, but the preliminary findings revealed that the three landing gear tires were properly inflated and showed no visible signs of excessive or unusual wear.

Eye witness accounts of the inbound Cessna 525A aircraft’s crash reported that the airplane veered off the right side of the runway upon landing and continued to turn right until it crashed into an airport hangar. The roof of the hangar collapsed after impact and a fire broke out among the debris.

According to the NTSB report, the local controller at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower at the airport said that the plane’s pilot, Mark Benjamin, did not relate any problems over the radio before or during landing.

The 63-year-old pilot, his son Lucas Benjamin, 28, Lauren Winkler, 28, and Kyla Dupont, 53, were all killed in the crash.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a democrat representing the Beverly Hills district, has asked the NTSB to expand their investigation beyond determining the cause of the incident. Waxman wants the NTSB to investigate health and safety concerns raised by the surrounding communities as well.

The accident prompted renewed protests among Santa Monica residents to shut the airport down, citing concerns over noise and air pollution. On October 13, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl joined around two dozen protestors on a march to the entrance of the airport.

“My constituents face toxicity every day,” Rosendahl said. “This is a health emergency. It’s like having a motorcycle in the playground.”

In July of this year, State Senator Ted Lieu asked the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substance Control to determine the level of toxicity in the area’s soil and air related to the airport’s operations.

The community organization, a coalition of neighborhood community groups, are advocating for the creation of a public park on the airport site. The coalition is pressing the city not to renew its agreement with the FAA when it expires in July 2015.