Officials investigate San Martin plane crash

August 21, 2008 2:14:48 PM PDT
Investigators are combing the wreckage of a small plane, trying to piece together why it crashed into a CHP building in the South Bay on Wednesday evening.

It happened Wednesday night at the weigh station off highway 101 in San Martin. The pilot was killed.

The truck inspection facility remains closed for the day, as CHP and FAA continue to investigate, and as they clear the wreckage.

The pilot's identity is not being released yet, but he's been licensed since 2004. Also, an FAA spokesperson said he departed to do a local flight yesterday from the south county airport in san martin, and was intending to return to the same airport.

"You see the stories of occasional aircraft that has to make an emergency landing on freeway or a roadway," said CHP Officer Chris Armstrong.

But this is not one of those more fortunate situations. The crash dove the plane right into a California Highway Patrol truck inspection facility on highway 101-Northbound in San Martin.

CHP has limited witness accounts of what happened.

"I do have one witness statement that has the aircraft northbound approaching the San Martin airport and then makes a sudden right turn for an unknown reason and collides with the structure," said Armstrong.

The crash happened around 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday. The pilot died upon impact. He was the only person aboard the Socota Rallye, single-engine plane.

The fire did a lot of damage, plus the impact into a cement building crumpled the plane to an unidentifiable mess.

Part of an office wall was shoved in, and bullet-proof windows shattered inside. Amidst this tragedy, there was fortune for the dozen employees usually working inside.

"Yesterday was a training day for this facility, so they had already vacated the building and so nobody was on site so even though this is terrible to have this type of incident it definitely could have been a lot worse," said Armstrong.

On Thursday, the truck scale facility remains closed while investigators from the Federal Aviation Agency and CHP collect scattered evidence, trying to re-piece what so suddenly went wrong.

It's still not clear what caused the pilot to lose control, and it's still unknown whether the pilot knew he had problems ahead of time. He didn't communicate with air traffic controllers before the crash.

CHP said there are multiple to dozens of witnesses who were on Highway 101 when it happened, and they are asking for anyone who has any information to call the Hollister-Gilroy Division and ask for Officer Dugger. The number is (408) 848-2324.


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