Four of the five people killed in a small plane crash in Southern California Sunday afternoon hailed from the East Bay, and three of them worked together in Danville, according to officials.
The Orange County coroner's office identified the victims as Scott Shepherd, 53, and Lara Shepherd, 42, of Diablo; Floria Hakimi, 62, of Danville; Navid Hakimi, 32, of Los Angeles; and Nasim Ghanadan, 29, of Alamo.
Ghanadan, Floria Hakimi and Lara Shepherd worked together at the Pacific Union International real estate company's office in Danville.
"Nasim was 29 years old, just a bundle of joy to be around...she was great," Pacific Union International Vice President Brian Moggan said.
Moggan added that Floria Hakimi was "an expert."
"She was just an awesome individual, very spiritual," he said. "It's just a huge loss for our company."
Pacific Union CEO Mark A. McLaughlin said Hakimi's son Navid Hakimi and Shepherd's husband Scott Shepherd, the plane's pilot, were also killed Sunday.
"Our entire Pacific Union family is mourning the loss of our colleagues, family and friends," McLaughlin said in a statement. "Life is precious and we are focused on comforting the loved ones affected by this devastating event."
The pilot declared an emergency but didn't state the nature of his problem before crashing about a mile from John Wayne Airport, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Albert Nixon said Monday. Nixon didn't know how much time elapsed between the distress call and the crash.
The plane, which departed from Concord earlier in the day, was heading to the airport southeast of Los Angeles when it came down and struck four unoccupied parked cars in the lot of a Staples store and a CVS pharmacy, Orange County Fire Authority Captain Steve Concialdi said. There was no fire, he said.
Jesse Perez was eating lunch with a friend at Buffalo Wild Wings, which shares the parking lot, when he heard the crash.
"It sounded like a truck hit the building," he told the Orange County Register
Customers ran from the restaurant into the lot and saw the wreckage of the white Cessna with green and blue trim.
"Bodies were hanging from out the side of the plane," said Perez, adding that emergency workers were there within minutes. "I couldn't believe what was happening."
Photos from the scene showed the plane crumpled and broken apart and the car damaged. Several roads were closed surrounding the shopping center and the busy South Coast Plaza mall across the street.
The plane is registered to a San Francisco-based real estate consulting company, Category III, according to an FAA database. A phone call to the company was not immediately returned.
"Category III is an aeronautical term which refers to a combination of highly trained pilots and sophisticated cockpit avionics working together to safely land an aircraft in zero visibility conditions," says a statement on the company's web site. "We value this metaphor and work to bring Category lll precision approach to our clients to deliver better results for all aspects of complex real estate value extrications."
The 1973 Cessna was certified with the FAA through October 2019, online records show.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash.
Witnesses watched in horror as a small plane banked low in sunny skies over a Southern California shopping center and then suddenly nosedived, crashing into a parking lot and killing all five people on board.
Ella Pham and her boyfriend were walking across the lot Sunday when they saw the twin-engine Cessna plummet.
“We looked up to see the plane falling nose first,” Pham, 20, told the Los Angeles Times. “It was so heartbreaking just seeing the plane crumbled into pieces.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.