Santa Monica Plane Crash Believed to Have Killed Building Company CEO, Son

The jet went off the runway upon landing, struck a hangar and burst into flames.

ByABC News
September 30, 2013, 10:19 AM

Sept. 30, 2013— -- A southern California building company CEO and his son are believed to be among the victims who were on board a private jet that crashed after it landed at a Santa Monica Airport on Sunday night.

While the cause of the crash is unclear, Morley Builders CEO Mark Benjamin and his son, Luke, a senior project engineer, were on board the plane, according to a statement by Vice President Charles Muttillo on the company's website.

A twin-engine Cessna Citation 525A plane that took off from Hailey, Idaho, went off the right side of the runway on landing, struck a hangar and burst into flames at 6:20 p.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Upon collision, the hangar walls wrapped around the plane's fuselage and steel trusses collapsed on top of the aircraft, making it impossible to gain access to the cabin, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Van Kenny said during a news conference today.

As authorities wait for cranes to lift the crushed hangar from the plane, they do not expect to find any survivors amid the debris.

The total number of people on board the aircraft was not immediately known, Kenny said. No passengers have yet to be identified or recovered from the wreckage.

"This was an unsurvivable crash," Santa Monica Fire Department Capt. John Nevandro said Sunday night at a media briefing.

The pilot did not communicate at any point during the flight that there was a problem with the plane, Kenny said. Officials are hoping to recover the cockpit voice recorder from the plane, as well as the flight plan from the FAA.

Firefighters said they were unable to get into the wrecked hangar to search for possible victims when they arrived on the scene Sunday night.

"When we got there, the whole hangar that the plane went into was completely involved and full of flames," Nevandro said.

Residents said they ran outside after hearing a loud boom and saw thick clouds of smoke billowing from the airport.

"It was very, very terrifying. It was very sad to see so much smoke, and the building collapsed and the loud boom. You put it all together and it's scary," Alyssa Laing told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV.

"There was chaos everywhere -- neighbors running around, sirens everywhere and just a lot of very black smoke and a lot of scared people," Angelica Barbosa said.

Santa Monica Airport manager Stelios Makrides told ABC News the hangar is right next to homes that border the airport.

The plane's tail number is unknown.

Morley Builders has more than 200 employees and specializes in the construction of institutional and major civic structures; education and research facilities; parking structures; commercial, retail and medical buildings; and multifamily residential complexes, according to its Linkedin page.

Santa Monica Airport is home to private jets owned by entertainment industry elites, the Associated Press reported. The airport in Hailey serves Idaho's Sun Valley resort area, a frequent destination for celebrities.