The pilot of a single-engine plane died Thursday morning, Nov. 7, when the aircraft crashed into an Upland home, setting it on fire.
Two adults and a young child inside the house escaped the flames.
“It is unbelievably lucky that they were able to escape — it landed right in their living room,” said San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman David Pingree.
More than half of the ranch house at 1257 Overland Court was reduced to charred rubble. The roof of the living room caved in but the eastern part of the house appeared untouched.
Firefighters said the pilot was believed to be the only person onboard the plane. The craft was identified as a Cirrus SR22, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The four-seater plane was flying from Torrance to Cable Airport in Upland. It had flown from Palm Springs to Torrance on Wednesday, Gregor said. He said the crash will be investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The plane is registered to a licensed pilot with an address in Palos Verdes Estates, FAA records show.
San Bernardino County firefighters arrived at the scene on Overland Court to find the single-story home with fire coming through the roof.
What appeared to be a parachute was seen hanging from a palm tree near the crash site; that Cirrus SR22 has an onboard airframe parachute. Pingree said there were no eyewitness accounts of the parachute being deployed.
Upland Police Capt. Marcelo Blanco said the crash was reported to police at 10:59 a.m. A neighbor said the adults and the child were at the opposite end of the home from where the plane smashed into it.
The plane has carbon fiber elements, presenting hazardous material issues, Pingree said. There was no word on when efforts would be made to recover the pilot’s body from the wreckage.
“We saw it engulfed in flames. It was shocking,” said Ann Berdette of the crashed aircraft. Berdette lives next door to the home hit by the plane.
She said she was in her home office when the plane crashed. “I heard the explosion, and I felt the impact.” She said a closed window blind “became bright with the flame.”
“I screamed at my husband … he said, ‘Get out, get your cellphone!’ We got out and called 911,” Berdette said.
She called it an “act of mercy” that the plane hit the opposite end of her neighbor’s house from where the father and his child were located.
“Honestly, I feel so blessed. Look where it came down,” she said. Minutes later, her daughter Ava greeted her with a big hug and both began to cry.
Her son, Aaron Berdette, arrived from his workplace a few minutes later and hugged his mom, sister and dad. They prayed briefly for the pilot and his family and thanked God for keeping their family safe.
“I feel very fortunate,” Aaron said. “Another 5 feet or so, and it would have been our house,” he said.
The Berdettes lost their shed, and a portion of the roof of their home was scorched.
They didn’t know when they could return to their home.
Neighbor Steve Weaver, 60, lives on Preston Street. His home backed up into the house that was hit by the plane.
“I heard a large bang. Then, a split second later, another huge bang. That’s when the plane exploded,” Weaver said.
He heard his wife scream and he and his son ran out of their home. “I didn’t know if the flames would hit us,” he said.
His home was not damaged.
Firefighters work the scene of the plane crash in Upland. pic.twitter.com/7NSDcjjDQK
— Jennifer Maher (@JCMaherPhoto) November 7, 2019
The FAA’s Gregor said the NTSB will be the lead agency in the investigation and it could take a year or more to determine a probable cause for an accident.
It was the most recent air crash for the Inland area in the past year.
On May 19 of this year, a replica of a German World War II observation aircraft crashed in a field just east of Cable Airport after takeoff. The pilot survived, but was injured.
That crash was three days after an Air National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a training mission crashed through the roof of a warehouse near March Air Reserve Base. Thirteen people were injured, including the pilot, who ejected from the plane.
In April, a vintage Northrop N9M “flying wing” that took off from Chino Airport crashed , in the prison yard of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, killing the pilot.
And in March, a pilot died when a twin-engine airplane crashed in a residential backyard in Riverside, shortly after the pilot reported engine trouble, authorities said.
On Thursday, Aaron Berdette watched the firefighters mop up the blaze as another small plane flew over the neighborhood on approach to Cable Airport.
He said the neighbors got used to the low-flying planes but always worried when they’d hear the pilots cut their engines upon approach and the planes would wobble.
“Now I’m really going to freak out, especially when they get really close,” he said.
This is a developing story, check back for more details.
Pilot dies when plane crashes into California home