Pilot whose plane crashed into California home, killing 5, was retired police officer

The pilot whose twin-engine plane crashed into a Southern California home on Sunday, killing him and four other people, was a retired Chicago Police Department officer, authorities said Monday.

Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Cory Martino identified the pilot as Antonio Pastini, 75, of Gardnerville, Nevada.


Martino told reporters that the four others who died —two were male, two were female — had not yet been identified. They were inside a single-family home in a residential section of Yorba Linda, a suburban community southeast of Los Angeles, at 1:45 p.m. when residents reported the crash.

It wasn’t clear if the people lived in the home or were guests, Martino said. He added that investigators were using DNA to identify them because of their “condition,” though he did not provide additional details.

Maja Smith, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said it wasn’t clear why the small Cessna airplane climbed to 7,800 feet then plummeted to the ground. The crash occurred just 10 minutes after takeoff from the nearby city of Fullerton, and Pastini was the only person in the plane at the time.

Smith said that witnesses reported seeing an “in-flight breakup.”

“They saw it climbing out of a cloud at a high speed before the tail and wings started to break apart,” she said.

In interviews with NBC News on Sunday, witnesses driving on the 91 Freeway said they saw what appeared to be an explosion in the sky and a trail of dark smoke. Residents in the neighborhood where the plane’s wreckage landed believed an earthquake had struck or a sports car had slammed into a home.

Smith said that wreckage was spread across four blocks and 15 or 16 homes in a “huge” debris field.

“It’s a challenge to recover all those parts,” she said.

The wreckage will eventually be gathered and moved to Arizona, where investigators will then examine the plane’s frame and engine, as well as Pastini’s pilot history and experience, Smith said.

Josh Olson, executive director of Angel Flight West, a volunteer organization that arranges flights to and from health care facilities for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make the trip, said Pastini began flying for the group in November.

Pastini operated one flight on Jan. 9, Olson said. He transported a patient with a life-threatening infectious disease to the University of California Davis for treatment.

According to the group’s guidelines, volunteers must meet a series of requirement to fly for Angel Flight, including a minimum of 250 hours of pilot-in-command time, a flight review within the last two years and a medical certificate.

Olson said Pastini had had no future trips scheduled.

This article originally appeared on NBC