University of San Francisco Professor Killed in Plane Crash in Sonoma County Remembered as a ‘Blessing’

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash, but it could take up to a year before a cause is revealed

The University of San Francisco community is grieving the loss of William Sachs Goldman, a professor who was killed in Thursday's plane crash near Sonoma Skyport Airport that injured three other passengers, including his children.

The 38-year-old, an assistant professor of international studies, died around 12:45 p.m.  in Schell Vista in the area of San Luis Road and Broadway south of Sonoma, according to Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services.

The Sonoma County Fire Department said two children under 16 — Goldman's son and daughter — were airlifted to Children's Hospital in Oakland. Their condition is unknown.

A female passenger also was hurt and taken to a hospital. Her relationship to the family remains unclear. 

On Friday, grief was palpable on the USF campus as people who knew Goldman described being devastated by his untimely death.

Chalwe Mwansa, a University of San Francisco alumni who visited the campus to drop off flowers in Goldman's honor, simply said, "He was family."

Officials investigate a small plane crash that killed one person and injured three others in Sonoma County.

University President Paul Fitzgerald wrote in a statement Thursday that Goldman impacted the lives of his colleagues and students, both former and current, and will be "greatly missed." 

"The University of San Francisco community is devastated to learn of the death of faculty member Bill Goldman in a Sonoma County plane crash," Fitzgerald wrote. "Bill, an assistant professor in international studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, was an accomplished scholar, a beloved and generous teacher, and a valued member of our community."

He continued: "Bill's wife Serra is an alumna of the USF School of Law and a member of the university's Board of Trustees. We are standing in prayerful solidarity with her and with Bill and Serra's young children, George and Marie, now and in the days ahead."

The New Israel Fund, a social justice nonprofit that counted Goldman among its board members, said they mourn the death of their “beloved friend,” a man with “vision, idealism and a sharp sense of humor.”

“Our thoughts are with his family, and especially his children,” the statement said. “As we begin to process this loss, we know that his memory will be a blessing, as was his life.”

Single-Engine Plane Crashes in a Field West of Sonoma Skypark

Preliminary information shows the plane crashed under unknown circumstances, Gregor said. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, but it could take up to a year before a cause is revealed.

Robert Castillo was one of several people who ran straight for the crash site when they heard a plane in distress. He helped pry the children out of the plane.

"Maybe it was about 75 feet in the air and descending, and that’s when I heard a bang and saw the parachute come out of the back of the air plane," Castillo said. "It sputtered louder, cut out, started sputtering, cut out and was off.

"When I got there, there was a little hand in the back window," Castillo continued. "I said, 'Oh my gosh, someone’s alive, let’s see what we can do.'"

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the plane was a single-engine Cirrus SR-22 and was equipped with a parachute system that can deploy in case of emergencies.

One person was killed and three others were injured after a small plane crashed Thursday afternoon in Sonoma County, fire officials said. Bob Redell reports.
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