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Long Beach plane crash claims community leaders, member of founding Bixby family

March 16, 2011 |  4:28 pm

Mike JensenMark BixbyThe five victims of a fiery plane crash Wednesday at the Long Beach Airport included local land developers, community leaders and a member of the city’s founding family.

Thomas Fay Dean, 50, was a local real estate investor who owns much of the Los Cerritos Wetlands in the southeastern part of the city. He and his business partner Jeff Berger, who also died in the crash, had worked together on a controversial land swap with the city last year.

 Mark Bixby, 44, was a commercial real estate developer whose family in the 19th century began  developing Rancho Los Cerritos into what would become Long Beach.

Active in the Rotary Club and other civic organizations, Bixby was passionate about cycling. He had been advocating to put a bike lane on a new bridge over the Port of Long Beach. He is survived by his wife, Theresa, and their three children.

Mike Jensen, 51, the lone survivor of the crash, remains in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Jensen is president of the Long Beach-based real estate company Pacific Retail Partners and lives on Naples Island in Long Beach with his wife, Diane, and three daughters.

Just hours before the crash, Mark Bixby had gone on an early morning bike ride to Huntington Beach with 20 other cyclists. He told friends that he and his boss, Jensen, were flying to Park City, Utah, later in the morning to go skiing for a few days.

Allan Crawford, a friend and cyclist, had coffee with Bixby after the ride.

“We were talking about what we always talk about: bicycle advocacy and getting a bike path across the Gerald Desmond Bridge,” he said.

“Mark was one of the most incredible people that I've ever known,” Crawford said. “He was fun, vivacious and, most of all, he was giving. He was so generous with his time and talents. His presence will be incredibly missed.”

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. 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 turbo prop plane had just taken off and was circling to return to the airport when it crashed.


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-- Tony Barboza in Long Beach

Photos: Mark Bixby, left, was killed in Wednesday's crash. Mike Jensen, right, was critically injured. Credit: Pacific Retail Partners