EL CAJON MAYOR AND TWO COUNCILMEMBERS DEFY MASK MANDATE AS COUNCIL HEARS REPORTS ON RELIEF FUNDS, DOWNTOWN UPGRADES, NEW VETERANS MEMORIAL AND MORE

ECM WORLD WATCH: NATIONAL AND GLOBAL NEWS

OUTGOING SAN DIEGO POLICE OVERSIGHT PANEL SEEING UPSURGE IN CASES

NEW PROGRAM TO PAY CA COLLEGE STUDENTS $10K FOR VOLUNTEER SERVICE

SHERIFF GORE TO STEP DOWN FEBRUARY 3

COUNTY LIBRARY EVENTS

AMID LOW COVID VACCINE RATES, MORE CALIFORNIA CHILDREN HOSPITALIZED IN OMICRON SURGE

STARTING TODAY, YOU CAN ORDER FOUR FREE COVID TESTS PER HOUSEHOLD

LOST A LOVED ONE TO COVID? FEMA WILL PAY FUNERAL EXPENSES

BEHIND ON YOUR MORTGAGE DUE TO COVID? NOW THERE’S HELP FOR CALIFORNIANS

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT NEWSOM'S BUDGET BLUEPRINT

TODAY’S TSUNAMI WARNING TRIGGERS CONCERN OVER SAN ONOFRE BY NUCLEAR SAFETY ADVOCATES

News

FIRE DESTROYS REFUGEE’S RESTAURANT, 3 OTHER BUSINESSES IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Kabul Star Restaurant, one of four businesses destroyed by the blaze

January 11, 2022 (El Cajon) – A fire destroyed four businesses in the Broadway Plaza Shopping Center in El Cajon  on January 5.  Two beauty shops, a smoke shop and an Afghan restaurant were destroyed.

A GoFundMe site has been set up to assist Karim Wafa, owner of the Kabul  Star restaurant, and his family including four young children after the fire turned their dreams into ashes.


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COUNTY REPORTS RECORD COVID CASES, URGES SAN DIEGANS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS

By Katie Cadiao, County of San Diego Communications Office

January 10, 2022 (San Diego) - The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency is reporting record numbers of new COVID-19 cases, even when factoring in that more than a third of the results from the previous three days are due to reporting delays from last week.


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EL CAJON TO HOST FOURTH REDISTRICTING HEARING JANUARY 22 TO CONSIDER DRAFT MAPS; DEADLINE TO SUBMIT MAPS IS JANUARY 14

Source: City of El Cajon

Photo: El Cajon, CC by SA

January 10, 2022 (El Cajon) -- The El Cajon City Council is hosting its fourth Redistricting Hearing on Saturday,  January 22 at 10:30 a.m. at El Cajon Valley High School, located at 1035 East Madison Avenue, in El Cajon. Redistricting is the process of adjusting City Council voting districts, following the US Census, to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of residents.


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ROCHA TO RUN AGAINST BRIAN JONES FOR STATE SENATE, DROPS BID FOR CONGRESS DUE TO REDISTRICTING

By Miriam Raftery

January 9, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) – Combat veteran Joseph C. Rocha this week announced plans to challenge State Senator Brian Jones, a Republican in the newly redrawn District 40 which includes Rocha’s home in Escondido.


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HEAD-ON COLLISION BLOCKS DEHESA ROAD

 

Update January 11, 2021:  CHP indicates a Honda Civic crossed the double yellow lines, colliding with a Chrysler Pacific minivan.  A 74-year old San Diego woman, a passenger in the minivan, died at the scene.  The minivan’s driver, a 46-year old woman, suffered moderate injuries.  The Honda driver, a 30-year-old woman, suffered major injuries; she is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol but has not yet been charged, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Update 4 p.m.  Dehesa Road will likely be obstructed for two hours, ECM has learned. 

By Miriam Raftery

January 9, 2021 (El Cajon) -- A head -on collision is blocking Dehesa Road in unincorporated El Cajon in both directions, about 500 feet west of Sloan Canyon Road. 

Two patients has been transported to Sharp Memorial hospital. 

Edwin Mathery, an eyewitness who lives nearby, told ECM that one of the vehicles is a white minivan.  


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GOVERNOR ACTIVATES NATIONAL GUARD FOR COVID TESTING AS HOSPITALS FILL UP

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of Governor Gavin Newsom’s office

January 8, 2022 (San Diego) – With hospitals locally and statewide overwhelmed by a surge in patients with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom  yesterday announced he has activated the National Guard to support local communities with testing.


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COUNTY RELEASE DRAFT EIR ON COTTONWOOD SAND MINING PROJECT: PUBLIC MEETINGS SET IN JANUARY

By Miriam Raftery

Images via Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine

 

Update January 9: Due to a COVID surge the January 12 meeting has been cancelled. The virtual meeting on January 19 at 7 p.m. can be accessed at this link  https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/pds/ceqa/MUP-18-023.html or this link: https://bit/ly/CottonwoodSandMine or you can call (619) 343-2539 and provide conference ID number 972 237 701#.

 

December 28, 2021 (San Diego) – A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is now available on the controversial proposed Cottonwood Sand Mining project along the Sweetwater River on the Cottonwood Golf Club site. There are several opportunities for the public to weigh in, including an in-person meeting January 12 at Hillsdale Middle School in Rancho San Diego and an online/phone teleconference January 19. You can also submit comments via mail or email, which must be received by February 14 at 4 p.m.

 

The project at 2131 Willow Glen Road would extract around 6.4 million tons of sand over 10 years from 214.4 acres. The developer contends the sand is needed for construction and road building in our region, to avoid costly importing of sand.  

 

The project has drawn opposition from thousands of local residents concerned over harm to wildlife in the adjacent national wildlife preserve as well as impacts on residents including traffic, noise, and air quality.

"We will review the DEIR with diligence to see if any of the community concerns have been addressed," said StopCottonwoodSandMine.org Board Chair Elizabeth Urquhart. “Most importantly, although it's been a long wait since the project was proposed in 2018, the community needs to know it is now the right time to speak up and register concerns over the community impacts, despite this being the holiday season. We need our neighbors to understand we cannot sit still as we continue to voice our opposition. We ask residents to inform their friends and neighbors to sign up at our website. We need to all work together to inform the community and to ultimately stop this sand mine.” Their concerns are documented at  https://www.stopcottonwoodsandmine.com/

 

Below are details provided by the County’s Planning and Development Services Department on the DEIR and how you can make your voice heard. Be sure to reference the project name and number in your comments.


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WAYWARD SEA LION WANDERS ONTO HIGHWAY 94

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via California Highway Patrol

January 8, 2021 (San Diego) – “It’s not everyday you see a sea lion on the freeway,” the California Highway Patrol tweeted after receiving a call shortly before 10 a.m. yesterday reporting a sea lion crossing State Route 94 just west of Interstate 805 in the Fairmount area.

Spring Valley resident Josefine Jandinger was driving east on 94 when she saw two good Samaritans stop their vehicles in the middle of the freeway to direct traffic and protect the wayward pinniped. ‘I see the two amazing humans stopping traffic…trying to save the seal, trying to have the seal walk to the other side of the road,” Jandinger said, ECM news partner 10 News reports.

CHP officers arrived and ran several traffic breaks to assure that the sea lion would not be struck by passing vehicles until Sea World’s rescue team arrived, says Salvador Castro, public information officer for the CHP in San Diego.


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GRANTS AWARDED TO RESTORE SAFE DRINKING WATER FOR LAKE MORENA RESIDENTS—BUT PROCESS MAY TAKE UNTIL 2024

Story and photos by Karen Pearlman 

January 8, 2021 (Lake Morena) – For more than two years, Lake Morena Village area water users have been drinking bottled water because of formidable nitrate levels in the region’s wells, the main source of water for drinking in the rural San Diego county burg. 

In September 2019, the county issued a do-not-drink order for about 125 customers of the Lake Morena Views Mutual Water Company, one of the two main water suppliers in the area.  The state recently approved grant funds to eliminate the contamination, but the process moves slowly – meaning frustrated residents may be without potable tap water for another two to three years.

“I am wondering what the effects will be on all of us in time to come. How can it take over two years to fix the issue?” asks Claudia Millerbragg, a Lake Morena Village residents in rural Campo. She says shareholders are not given enough information, adding,  “Because we are in an underserved community no one really seems to care. Can you imagine this happening in La Jolla?"


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CAL FIRE: POWER LINES HIT BY TREE CAUSED DESTRUCTIVE DIXIE FIRE

East County News Service

Photo: CC by NC-ND via Bing

January 6, 2022 (Butte County) – Cal Fire investigators have determined that the Dixie Fire, which burned nearly a million acres and destroyed 1,329 structures in northern California, was caused by a tree contacting electrical distribution lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The blaze was the second largest in the state’s history and also caused at least one death.


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ASSEMBLYMEMBER LORENA GONZALEZ RESIGNS TO TAKE TOP JOB AT LABOR FEDERATION

East County News Service; Times of San Diego contributed to this report

Photo by Miriam Raftery

January 6, 2022 (San Diego) – Staunch labor advocate Lorena Gonzalez on Monday announced her resignation from the California state Assembly to accept a job as leader of the  California Labor Federation.  Her resignation took effect yesterday; her new position begins in July.


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EL CAJON CAMPS ACCREDITED BY THE AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION

Source:  City of El Cajon

January 5, 2022 (El Cajon) - The City of El Cajon has become the first City in California to be accredited by the American Camp Association. The accreditation process involved applying 300 peer-reviewed standards against the City’s recreation camp operating procedures.


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ANNIVERSARY OF JANUARY 6 CAPITOL ATTACK BRINGS REFLECTIONS, INVESTIGATIONS, AND CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

 By Miriam Raftery and Rebeca Jefferis Williamson

Images: Public Domain

Jan. 5, 2022 (Washington, D.C.)  --  January 6, 2021 will be commemorated in the nation’s history books  as the date when thousands stormed the U.S. Capitol while the US Senate was preparing to certify the electoral count from the November 3, 2020, election. Five people died during the violent insurrection and 140 police officers were injured, ABC News reported

In a speech today, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, “The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last.” He added, “"Those involved must be held accountable, and there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice."

"The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators --at any level--accountable under law, whether they were present that day, or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead."




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EL CAJON MAN DIES AFTER ROLLOVER CRASH

East County News Service

January 5, 2022 (El Cajon) – Robert Roger Marchand, 71, of El Cajon died at a local hospital of injuries sustained in a vehicle accident December 28 on Interstate 805.

Marchand was driving northbound on I-805 at Telegraph Canyon Road in Chula Vista around 7:02 p.m. when for unknown reasons, his vehicle veered onto the shoulder and down an embanking, landing on the roof.


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$100,000 REWARD FOR ID OF PIPE BOMBER NIGHT BEFORE JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION

East County News Service

January 4, 2022 (Washington D.C.) – As the anniversary of the violent capitol insurrection last January 6 approaches, federal authorities seek public help to find a suspect who planted two pipe bombs near the Democratic and Republican national committee headquarters in Washington D.C. the night before. A $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for planting the bombs is being offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)  and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

Between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 5, surveillance cameras indicate the suspect planted the bombs while wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, face mask, gloves, and a pair of black and light grey Nike Air Max Speed Turf shoes with a yellow logo.


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LEFT IN THE DARK BY SULLIVAN SOLAR? HERE ARE SOME HELPFUL RESOURCES

East County News Service

January 4, 2022 (San Diego) – Sullivan Solar Power’s license has been suspended by the State Contractors Licensing Board after many complaints. Sullivan closed its operations and stopped responding to customers’ inquiries, as ECM previously reported.  Fortunately, help is available. If you are a current or past Sullivan Solar customer, the California Solar Storage Association (CALSSA) recommends several resources, including a state-run solar recovery fund to help homeowners harmed by a solar contractor, as well as informational sites and access to contractors to complete unfinished work.


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FATALITY CRASH ON I-8 CAUSES LONG TRAFFIC DELAYS IN ALPINE

East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

January 4, 2022 (Alpine) – The driver of a blue Peterbuilt truck towing a double-axle flatbed Fontaine trailer was killed in an accident this afternoon on I-8 east of Dunbar Lane in Alpine.  All but one lane remains closed and a SIG Alert has been issued due to traffic delays of an hour or more.

According to Officer Travis Garrow with the California Highway Patrol, the as yet unidentified man applied the brakes and a load of steel sheet pile beams shifted forward, penetrating the back of the truck and impaling the driver.


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TUBERCULOSIS CASE REPORTED AT SYCUAN CASINO; EXPOSURE POSSIBLE FROM APRIL 1 TO DECEMBER 9, 2021

COVID safety precautions minimized potential for TB spread

East County News Service

January 3, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) – Tuberculosis has been diagnosed in a person at Sycuan Casino who may have exposed customers and employees, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced today.


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TERRA-GEN FINED HALF MILLION DOLLARS FOR FALSIFYING DATA ON WIND TURBINE ENERGY PRODUCTION

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

Photo: Terra-Gen’s planned Campo Wind turbines would be twice as tall as those shown at the existing Kumeyaay Wind site in Campo.

January 3, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) – Terra-Gen, the company slated to build a massive wind project on the Campo reservation, has been fined over a half million dollars following an investigation that accused the company of submitting “false or misleading information to the California System Operator (CAISO)” regarding the capabilities and output of a wind power facility owned by Terra-Gen’s subsidiary Cameron Ridge, LLC. 


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EAST COUNTY EQUESTRIAN GROUP TO PERFORM IN TOURNAMENT OF THE ROSES PARADE ON NEW YEAR’S DAY 2022

Photo by Kim Bishop, Xo Enquire Photography courtesy of the Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Dec. 31, 2021 (East County) Start the New Year by watching and celebrating the Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society’s TV appearance at the 133rd edition of the Tournament of Roses 2022 Parade in Pasadena.

The 23-member equestrian group will participate, for their sixth time, with 15 members participating using three carriages and four horses.


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HELP US COVER THESE TOP NEWS STORIES IN 2022!

 

Dear Readers:

Many hot news stories are on the horizon in the New Year. Help us cover the stories listed below and more! While other publishers are cutting East County coverage, we’re gearing up to grow our local news reporting in the public interest!  To make a year-end, tax deductible donation, click here. Donors who give $50 or more will receive our Beautiful East County calendar as thanks!

Here are the top 2022 issues we aim to cover, with your help:


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AS COVID CASE RISE, COUNTY ADVISES PUBLIC TO AVOID LARGE NEW YEAR’S CROWDS

East County News Service

Image via Public Domain Photos

December 30, 2021 (San Diego) – COVID-19 cases have spiked in the past 24 hours, with 5,976 cases reported yesterday, up from 3,650 cases one day earlier, County Health and Human Services reports.  To reduce the spread, County health officials are urging San Diegans to keep New Year’s celebrations small and limit them to family and close friends who are vaccinated and boosted if eligible to prevent the surge of COVID-19 cases that occurred last winter.

The County is also asking the public and businesses to continue following the current state and local guidance to slow the spread.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s deputy public health officer, says given the record number of cases and rapid emergency of the Omicron variant, “If you have New Year’s celebrations, limit them to people who live with you and make sure everyone present uses the strategies we know work.”


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MEDICAL CREW AND PILOTS KILLED IN EAST COUNTY PLANE CRASH IDENTIFIED

Photo, left: Learjet crash victims Tina Ward, Julian Bugaj, Laurie Gentz and Douglas Grande, clockwise from bottom. Photo via Oceanside Firefighters Association 3736 Facebook

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Dec. 30, 2021 (El Cajon) -- Two flight nurses and two pilots have been identified as those lost in the Learjet 35A plane crash that occurred Dec. 27 in the Bostonia neighborhood of El Cajon.  

The plane was owned by Aeromedevac Air Ambulance. Tina Ward, Julian Bugaj, Laurie Gentz, and Douglas Grande, the Aeromedevac flight crew N88OZ, all perished in the crash.


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DEADLY RABBIT HEMORRHAGIC FEVER HOPS ACROSS REGION

Story and photos by Karen Pearlman 

December 30, 2021 (San Diego) -- An extremely contagious disease which is nearly always fatal to wild rabbits and hares as well as pet bunnies has spread throughout San Diego County and the western United States. 

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) was first seen in a wild rabbit in the county in June 2020. Since then, nearly a dozen more rabbits have tested positive for the disease locally. But there are likely many more cases, since the state and county lack resources to test the growing number of dead rabbits reported.


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PASSAGES: REMEMBERING LIVES LOST IN 2021

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 31, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Lost but never forgotten, these are the prominent East County individuals who passed away in 2021, as well as two who died amid the pandemic in 2020 but were not memorialized until this year, when media was notified.

They came from all walks of life: journalists, educators, teachers, a priest, a tribal healer, a firefighter, a police officer, athletes, a musician, business leaders, students, philanthropists, an air ambulance crew, a veteran who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, and many more. Each left their own indelible mark on our region.

Click the name/title to view the full obituary for each of these local luminaries.


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STORIES OF THE YEAR: TURBULENT TIMES AND BRIGHT SPOTS IN 2021

By Miriam Raftery

December 29, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Turbulent times continued in 2021, marred by a persistent pandemic, vaccine rollouts, political divisiveness including an insurrection at the nation’s capitol, and local controversies such as growing homelessness, a housing shortage, power outages, protests over mask mandates, and SANDAG’s proposed mileage tax, to name a few.

Some national issues, such as pandemic relief, the infrastructure bill, the end of the Afghanistan war, and court rulings on immigration had strong impacts on our region.

There were bright spots. California reopened its economy mid-year, allowing all businesses and event venues to finally reopen. Hometown hero Joe Musgrove pitched the Padres’ first no-hitter. Residents organized to halt sexually violent predators from being placed in a Mt. Helix community. La Mesa named a new police chief committed to rebuilding community trust. Major land acquisitions by the county preserved riverfront land in Lakeside and the former Starr Ranch in Campo for posterity.

Two new Congressional representatives from East County took office and a special election sent a new Assemblywoman to Sacramento, while redistricting at year’s end will bring even more sweeping changes in 2022. 

Below is a rundown on the top stories that impacted East County in 2021:


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COVID-19 ISOLATION SHORTENED TO 5 DAYS FOR THOSE WITH NO SYMPTOMS

By Miriam Raftery

December 28, 2021 (San Diego) – If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms, you only have to isolate for five days instead of ten – but you should wear a well-fitting mask for an additional five days when around other people if you are unvaccinated or haven’t had a booster shot. 

If you’ve had a booster shot in addition to the vaccine, you don’t have to quarantine at all if you don’t have symptoms, but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure, when around others. 

If you do have symptoms, isolate until a negative test confirms that you don’t have COVID. Anyone exposed to COVID should get tested five days after exposure.

Those are the new guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which the state and county have announced they will follow.  The rules do not apply to healthcare workers, however.


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HOLIDAY BOWL AT PETCO PARK CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19 PROTOCOLS

By Miriam Raftery

December 28, 2021 (San Diego) – Hours before this evening’s 5 p.m. kickoff at Petco Park, the UCLA Bruins pulled out, forcing cancellation of the Holiday Bowl.  A statement from UCLA at 12:30 p.m. indicated the team was withdrawing “due to COVID-19 protocols within the Bruins’ program.”

No details were provided, though UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond voiced disappointment for team members. “My heart goes out to them,” he said, but added that health and safety of our students will always be a priority.

UCLA was slated to compete against North Carolina State, which tweeted, “Heartbroken to not be able to compete one more time this season.”


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COUNTY TO HOLD JAN. 7 MEETING ON TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT

By Miriam Raftery 

December 28, 2021 (San Diego) – The County Planning Commission will host a special meeting on January 7 at 9 a.m. to hear an update on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as well as 13 items that Supervisors directed staff to evaluate related to transportation impacts of future development projects. Below are details in a letter sent to stakeholders from the County’s Planning and Development Services Department.


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PLANE THAT CRASHED INTO BOSTONIA NEIGHBORHOOD WAS OWNED BY MEDJET; POWER OUT TO HUNDREDS IN AREA

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Screenshot from video posted by 10 News, an ECM news partner

Update December 28, 2021: The FAA reports that four people were on board the plane.

December 27, 2021 (El Cajon) -- A Lear jet owned by Med Jet LLC, an air ambulance company, crashed at 7:15 p.m. tonight at Pepper Drive and North Mollison Avenue in the Bostonia area of El Cajon.  The pilot and any passengers aboard the 10-seat plane are presumed dead following multiple explosions.  There are no reports of fatalities on the ground, ECM news partner Times of San Diego reports.

The crash spewed fiery wreckage across the neighborhood, damaged a vehicle and knocked out power to around 2,500 customers of SDG&E, the utility website indicates. Power is expected to be restored by 6 a.m. tomorrow. Traffic signals are also out in the vicinity.


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