Sunday plane crash rattles CSUN students

 A day after a single-engine Cessna plane crashed into CSUN’s East Field near Zelzah Avenue and Plummer Street, students and local emergency personnel continued to react to the scene.

“I didn’t think it was real, it was a shock,’” said Erick Rodriguez, a 20-year-old Pierce College student who said he saw the plane go down while he was driving northbound on Zelzah on his way home from church.

“I threw the car in park and grabbed my friend and we ran over as fast as we could,” Rodriguez said.

The plane’s occupants, a man and woman who were both believed to be in their 60s, were headed towards the Van Nuys airport for an emergency landing due to engine failure, according to Ian Gregor, a spokesman from the Federal Aviation Administration.

They were transported to Northridge Hospital as a precaution, according to firefighter Rick Tanguay, who was among the first-responders with Battalion 70 of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

“They were really lucky,” Tanguay said. “The pilot gets to chalk that up to a good landing, I guess.”

The identities of the plane’s occupants were not released by officials investigating the crash, but the plane was found to be registered to a corporation called Clipper 29 Uniform LLC which is based in Newport Beach.

The plane was leaking fuel and there were a small amount of flames, Rodriguez said. The flames died down quickly, prompting Rodriguez and his friend to run over to the crash site.

The woman was described as having no visible wounds, although she seemed “discombobulated,” according to Rodriguez. The male occupant, who was thought to be the pilot, was bleeding profusely from his face, but he seemed to be more concerned with the health of his female passenger, Rodriguez said.

Student Recreation Center lifeguard William Vaughn, a CTVA senior, was shocked by the plane descending down over the SRC.

“I just heard my co-worker go ‘What?’ and as I looked up, the plane passed directly over our heads,” Vaughn said.  “The propeller had stopped, so I didn’t hear anything, it was completely silent.  It was super low and we didn’t hear a crash, but a really loud thud.”

Vaughn jumped onto a wall that separates the SRC swimming pool and the athletic fields only to see a mangled plane upside-down.  Soon after, the lifeguard radioed the administration office who notified authorities.

CSUN police chief Anne Glavin said the first call came in at 3:11 p.m. and two officers were dispatched to the scene where initial reports were unsure of what exactly had crashed onto the school’s East Field, where sports teams sometime practice.

“The officers’ first attention was to the pilot and his wife,” Glavin said.

Cpt. Larry Jackson of LAFD Station 70 said his station’s radio traffic was relaying information from the Van Nuys airport tower where the plane had been trying to land.

“We share a radio and talk with CSUN dispatch,” Jackson said.  “There was no fire but a lot of smoke from the airplane.”

Sgt. Andy Whitman, public information officer with the LAPD Devonshire division, said police assisted by setting up barriers on the perimeter of the scene to keep out spectators.

“We respond as an act of mutual aid,” Whitman said of how LAPD can get involved with CSUN-related cases.

Vaughn was surprised at how some students reacted with the plane falling overhead.

“There was someone sitting right behind me poolside that had no reaction at all, like he sees planes fall out of the sky everyday,” Vaughn said.

The plane was heading from Novato to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, according to Fire Chief Mark Saxelby of Battalion 70.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Bureau, Saxelby said.

Even a day later, Rodriguez still couldn’t forget the image of the plane falling out of the sky.  “I can’t get the picture out of my head,” he said. “I see the man and woman’s faces.”