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September 28, 2022

Multiple people dead after planes collide at Watsonville airport

UPDATE, Aug. 19: Federal investigation into fatal plane collision underway


WATSONVILLE—Two men, a woman and a dog died in a mid-air collision between two small private planes above Watsonville Municipal Airport Thursday just before 3pm.

One witness, who went by the name Steve, said he saw the planes attempting to land when they clipped wings, and one plane appeared to flip on its side before crash landing near the beginning of the main runway. 

Meanwhile, the second plane, a larger Cessna 421 twin engine plane, continued down the runway and smashed into a grassy field, igniting it ablaze before careening into an airplane hangar. That plane, officials at the scene said, had a man, a woman and a dog aboard. They were all pronounced dead at the scene.

The airport hangar sustained major damage.

The smaller plane, a Cessna 152, with a male pilot landed on its roof near the beginning of the runway off the intersection of Buena Vista Drive and Calabasas Road and was demolished by the impact. 

Franky Herrera said he saw the midair collision.

“I had just dropped off a friend and I saw the planes hit each other,” he said. “The large twin engine plane had banked hard right before their wings hit. The small plane just spiraled down and hit the ground right here. I saw the other plane go off that way before it crashed.”

A trail of airplane parts, including a large hunk of a wing, were strewn across a neighborhood and over Buena Vista Drive. The trail of debris forced officials to close Buena Vista between Freedom Boulevard and Bowker Road.

A large patch of dry grass was set ablaze when the twin engine plane crashed before plowing into Hangar Y behind the Animal Clinic on Airport Boulevard.

The scene is still unfolding and little information is available.

This story will be updated.

plane crash watsonville municipal airport
One man reportedly died when his Cessna single engine plane clipped another aircraft midair and crashed into the field surrounding Watsonville Municipal Airport Thursday. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian
Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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