By Miriam Raftery
Photo of crash site, courtesy ECM news patner 10 news
July 25, 2018 (Julian) – Three people who died in a May 10th crash of a flight school-owned plane at Volcan Mountain in Julian which sparked a brush fire have been identified by the County Medical Examiner’s office.
The victims were Rongwei Zhang, 23, Qinyang Zuo, 28, and Zehe Zhang, 24. All died of blunt force injuries and multiple thermal injuries; all deaths were ruled accidental and toxicology reports found no contributing factors.
According to a report filed by the National Transportatoin Safety Board, which investigated the crash, the BEECH 75 aircraft, registration N803FC, was registered to and operated by the Scandinavian Aviation Academy for cross-country flight training. The school draws international student pilots including many Chinese nationals.
Oddly, no flight plan was filed for the plane, and there was no declaration of “emergency” on the radio. However the NTSB indicates it took off from Apple Valley Airport in northern California and was destined for Gillespie Field airport in El Cajon.
The certified flight instructor, a pilot receiving instructions and a student pilot rated passenger were those killed on the cross-country training flight which was to include day and night time legs. The flight was making a turn at an altitude of 6,200 feet when it suddenly descended and crashed less than a mile southast of Julian’s Very High Frequency Omnirange Navigation Equipment in mountainous terrain around 4,200 feet.
The incident has sparked anger among some East County residents. Robert Germann, long a critic of flight schools at Gillespie, told ECM, “Unfortunately the aviation industry at Gillespie feels it does not have a responsibility to its East County neighbors to inform us about anything. …The crash started a fire in the back country, which for us in East County is an extremely serious issue; look at our fire history. Thank goodness somebody heard the crash otherwise how long would would that fire have burned all night? This is why you file a flight plan; somebody notices you are not back. Then they look for you. County airports have repeatedly dodged the bullet.”