California Neighborhood Learjet Crash: Two Victims Identified

by Josh Lanier
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Coworkers of two flight nurses confirmed they died when the jet they were on crashed into a neighborhood Monday. The Aeromedevac Air Ambulance jet clipped a powerline and exploded above El Cajon, California. The flight also had two pilots on board. There were no survivors.

Tina Ward and Laurie Gentz were on board the Learjet 35A when it went down, reports said. Ward was the wife of Joe Ward, a recently retired California fire chief. The Oceanside Firefighters Association posted several photos of the Wards on Instagram. The couple had three daughters.

“It is with heavy hearts that the Oceanside Firefighters Association Local 3736 fire family would like to extend our deepest condolences to our recently retired Chief Ward, his family, and all family and friends of the members lost during this tragic event. We are shocked and saddened by this devastating news and are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time”

The Oceanside Firefighters Association Instagram post includes a photo of Ward (front center) and Gentz (back center) next to the plane that crashed. It’s unclear if the two men with them were the pilots on the doomed flight, though. Investigators haven’t released the pilots’ names.

The International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, a trade union, confirmed Gentz was also on board the flight.

‘The IAEP extends sincere condolences for the devastating and sudden loss of Local 162 President Laurie Gentz, her fellow passengers, and the Learjet flight crew early this morning,” the group said in a Facebook post. “President Gentz will be greatly missed by all who knew her and all who benefit from her selfless contributions to organized labor in the Greater San Diego area.”

Investigators Trying to Piece Together Cause of Crash

Officials said the Learjet was approaching Gillespie Field just after 7 p.m. Monday when the plane crashed. It’s unclear what caused the plane to clip powerlines above a residential neighborhood. Though the pilot and the air traffic controllers were communicating just before the crash.

In the final seconds of that recording, one of the pilots yells “Oh sh*t! and screams before going silent.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, but it will be weeks before investigators release their preliminary findings.

There were no injuries on the ground, despite the jet exploding above several homes.

Lauren Watling, who lives in that neighborhood, told NBC7 said it’s not uncommon to hear planes overhead.

“Normally they get loud because we live right by the airport,” she said. “But it got really, really loud and all of the sudden. We think it could’ve hit our power lines above our house, but we just saw bright blue and orange flashing lights, and we heard the electricity running.

“And then after that, we heard the plane actually crash. We ran out immediately and there was a ton of smoke everywhere. All we saw was fire and smoke.”

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