CitationJet Crashes into Hangar at Santa Monica Airport

Questions remain over why jet went out of control.

SMO Crash Site

SMO Crash Site

** Pictured is the location of the crash, based on information published by local outlets.**

The fiery crash of a Cessna Citation CJ2 into a hangar at Santa Monica on Sunday evening left four dead and raised many questions about just what happened and why. Killed in the crash were a Santa Monica businessman, Mark Benjamin, his adult son Luke, and two women also on the flight, whose names have not been reported. It took 36 hours for firefighters to get to the victims, whose bodies were trapped under the hangar, which collapsed on top of the crashed jet.

Eyewitnesses report that the light jet landed normally and was rolling out on Runway 21 when it veered off, went across the ramp and struck a large hangar, quickly engulfing the hangar and the jet in flames. “It looked like a fairly benign way for an airplane to lose control,” local flight instructor Charlie Thomson told KCAL news. “It lost a tire and ran into a hangar.”

Santa Monica Airport has hangars and other buildings very close to the runway, so there was little ground for the CitationJet to cover after it went out of control until it hit the hangar.

Whether there was a blown tire or, if so, how it contributed to the accident remains to be seen.

Authorities stressed in interviews with local media that the crash was “unsurvivable,” though it is possible that the ensuing fire and not the crash was the fatal factor. It’s possible that the emphasis was to make clear the mission was not a rescue mission and time was not a factor.

The NTSB is in charge of investigating the accident, though the Los Angeles Times reported that soon after investigators arrived on site, they had to stop working because of the government shutdown, which took effect on Tuesday.

Robert Goyer contributed to this report.

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