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Pilot declared emergency before plane crashed near Westwood

Westside plane crash

The pilot of a plane that crashed near Westwood on Friday evening had declared an emergency shortly before the plane went down, officials said.

The pilot was killed, but no one on the ground was hurt.

Samantha Schoenberg, 20, said she was driving home on Santa Monica Boulevard when she saw a plane flying low and nearly on its side.

"I was thinking, 'That plane is definitely going to crash,' " she said. "It disappeared behind a building … and there was a huge cloud of black smoke."

The pilot of the single-engine Cessna 210 was returning to Santa Monica Airport just before crashing about 6 p.m., said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The plane came down near the intersection of Westwood and Olympic boulevards. It did not hit any buildings despite crashing in a community dense with homes.

A fire sparked by the crash was quickly extinguished, fire officials said. The name of the pilot has not been released. No other injuries were reported.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

--Paloma Esquivel and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Emergency crews respond to the scene in West L.A. on Friday after a small aircraft crashed near Olympic and Westwood boulevards. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / August 10, 2012)

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