By Sara Hall | NB Indy
The pilot of the light plane that crashed into Upper Newport Bay on Sunday, killing all three aboard, had radioed that he was low on fuel shortly before the crash.
Officials from the Orange County Coroner’s Office identified the victims of the crash as Charles Chambers, 58, Russell Urban, 63, and Sean Kelly, 44, of Hermosa Beach.
According to the FAA, the single-engine Beechcraft plane was registered to Chambers, a Palos Verdes Estates resident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) lead investigator on the case, Wayne Pollack, confirmed that Chambers was the pilot.
The three men were on their way back from vacationing in Mexico, Pollack said. The plane’s last stop was in Calexico and was headed for Torrance, he added.
“They indicated to air traffic control that they were going to land at John Wayne Airport,” Pollack said. “They indicated they were low on fuel.”
Pollack said he has not listened to the air traffic tapes yet, so he did not know the specifics of what was said other than that they were low on fuel and they wanted to land at the nearest airport.
The plane was moved to Newport Dunes Monday, said Newport Beach Fire Department spokeswoman Jennifer Schultz. Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Burdette said the NTSB started their inspection of the aircraft and will eventually be hauled out of the Dunes for them to examine more closely.
Schultz said a firefighter spotted the plane flying low, approximately 50 feet above the Fashion Island station.
“He knew it was very unusual and knew something was wrong,” Schultz said.
The Newport Beach Police Department received the call as well and were looking to land the plane on Newport Center Drive, said Burdette. It was unclear exactly why they needed to land, Burdette said.
“They were distressed and they needed to land the plane,” Burdette said.
Officers were sent to secure a location on Newport Center Drive, he said, when they got a call at 5:46 p.m. that a plane went down in the bay, off of Back Bay Drive and San Joaquin Hills Road.
Responders found the plane upside down in the bay and immediately got in the muddy water in an attempt to rescue any survivors in the plane, but found all three men dead.
Along with Newport Beach firefighters and police, Newport Beach lifeguards, Harbor Patrol and Orange County Fire Authority responded to the crash.
The NTSB and the FAA will investigate the cause of the crash.