Corona, CA Plane Crashes Into Truck, Jul 1985


Corona - The pilot and passenger in a banner-towing plane were killed Tuesday when the plane crashed into the cab of a moving van on Highway 91 near here, starting a brush fire that destroyed a home and injured two fire fighters.
"He just came out of the sky coming right at me," said truck driver Patrick Napoli of Lake Eleanor. "I was trying to avoid him, and he was trying to avoid me, and then we just hit."
The crash occurred at 3:52 p.m. near the Green River Golf Course. By late evening, the fire had blackened about 750 acres and destroyed a fire truck. Containment was expected by 6 this morning, officials said.
Napoli said the plane appeared to clear a set of power lines, but the banner it was towing became entangled, pulling the nose of the craft down toward the highway.
He said the cab and the plane became engulfed in flames on impact.
Napoli said his wife and son were with him in the cab at the time.
The impact "buckled the door on my side and I couldn't get it open," he said. "My wife and son got out on the passenger's side and I just followed them. My son hurt his knee when he jumped out so I got out then dragged him away from the flames."
California Highway Patrol Officer Tom Fitzgerald said there appeared to be two bodies in the remains of the aircraft, but there was no immediate word as to their identities.
"The plane was burned so badly, we couldn't get any identifying numbers off of it or anything," he said. "We'll just have to wait for the coroner."
The plane crashed just inside Orange County near the Orange-Riverside county line. The fire, however, immediately burned into Riverside County. Flames destroyed a hilltop ranch house and several outbuildings, but the residents escaped unharmed.
The two firemen who were injured were from the Norco Naval Base and were assigned to protect the ranch house that burned, said Orange County Fire Department Capt. Dennis Ford.
The fire "just totally overwhelmed them," he said. "One suffered first-degree burns to his face and the side of his head. The other suffered respiratory injuries from inhaling smoke and heat."
The flames also destroyed the fire truck they were using.
The injured were firemen identified as NOEL BUTCHER, 36, and MICHAEL MARTINEZ, 30. Both were taken to Corona Community Hospital where they were treated and released. A third firefighter KENNETH SHEFFIELD, also was treated for smoke inhalation, and released.

San Bernardino County Sun California 1985-07-03