One man died and another man was trapped for hours after a plane crashed Monday night on a hillside in Oceanside, officials told NBC 7.
The single-engine Piper Cherokee Warrior plane crashed into the side of a hill on Canyon Drive near State Route 76, approximately 10 to 20 feet from the top of the ridge.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the plane went down at 9 p.m. Monday night about a half mile from the Oceanside Municipal Airport where it took off.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), witnesses reported the crash Monday night but police were not able to find the wreckage.
A witness driving on the highway called Oceanside police at 7:14 a.m. Tuesday after spotting the wreckage, OPD spokesperson Tom Bussey said.
NTSB investigator Tealeye Cornejo says the appearance of the wreckage is consistent with the first witness account.
"They took off last night and were making a left turn," Cornejo said. "A witness heard what sounded like an airplane crashing."
Cornejo says it was a high-energy takeoff, and the plane was traveling at a faster airspeed to get off the ground but may have failed to get above the cliff.
The NTSB is calling it a "man, machine, environment" examination.
When firefighters and emergency personnel made their way to the site of the crash, they found the pilot dead and a passenger suffering from major injuries including broken bones and cuts to his face, Bussey said.
"I think when you hear 'plane crash,' human nature is to think that you're probably not going to find someone. You're cautiously optimistic, but you just never know. We don't try to pre-judge that, we just try to save everybody," Oceanside Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Stein said.
The passenger was freed from the aircraft wreckage and loaded onto a San Diego County Sheriff's Department helicopter. He was flown to a nearby airstrip where a medical transport helicopter was waiting.
First responders from Oceanside, Vista, Camp Pendleton, Cal Fire, and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department were all part of the rescue effort.
The survivor told rescue crews the plane crashed over five hours before they were found, but the FAA confirmed the man was trapped in the wreck for much longer.
The unidentified survivor was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital by Mercy Air, fire officials said.
Eastbound SR-76 was closed due to the emergency response. Commuters were advised to avoid eastbound SR-76 between Canyon and Benet until further notice.
Officials reopened eastbound State Route 76 just before 1 p.m.
FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said there were only two people onboard the plane. He said an investigation has been launched into the cause of the crash.
While the impact was enough to kill the pilot and severely injure his passenger, the plane did not catch fire and remained intact. Two factors that the NTSB says will help unravel the mystery.
The wreckage has been secured at the top of the ridge but the NTSB told NBC 7 it's up to the plane's owner to move the wreckage off the hill.
The NTSB said the plane will be removed from the crash site in the next few days.
The plane is registered to two co-owners out of Vista. One of the owners confirmed to NBC 7 his plane was involved in the crash but didn't reveal any further details.
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