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Long Beach 'community leaders' were among those killed in plane crash, councilman says

March 16, 2011 |  1:50 pm

Firefighters continue their investigation into the crash of a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air plane that crashed on departure from Long Beach Airport on Wednesday.

Three of the five people killed in a plane crash at Long Beach Airport on Wednesday were identified as "community leaders" who may have been en route to a ski resort.

Tom Dean, Mark Bixby and Jeff Berger were among those killed, said Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, who said he'd been told the group of six was headed to either Park City, Utah, or Mammoth.

DeLong said the sixth person aboard the plane was Mike Jensen, who now is listed in critical condition. The councilman said he had spoken to the wives of two of the men killed in the crash and was at the hospital, awaiting updates on Jensen's condition.

"These are close friends and part of our extended family," he said. "These individuals were community leaders in Long Beach, and they will be missed, both today and for years to come."

DeLong said the pilot of the plane was among those killed, but he did not know the person's name. The fifth person killed remained unidentified.

The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air plane ignited in a ball of flames on departure from the airport around 10:30 a.m., said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane, which is owned by a Los Angeles-based corporation, was initially reported to be headed to Salt Lake City. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

"We are deeply saddened by this event," Airport Director Mario Rodriguez told reporters at the scene. "This is the last thing any airport director wants to see."

The twin-engine turbo prop plane had just taken off and was circling to return to the airport when it crashed just after 10:30 a.m.

Long Beach Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Reeb said firefighters arrived on scene to find the plane on fire and a fireball spewing from the wreckage. They found six occupants inside.

The airport has shut down two of five runways, but all commercial flights are scheduled to fly out normally.

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-- Tony Barboza at Long Beach Airport, Andrew Blankstein and Dan Weikel

Photo: Firefighters continue their investigation into the crash of a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air plane that crashed on departure from Long Beach Airport on Wednesday. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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