Victims of midair collision over Watsonville Municipal Airport identified

The wreckage of one of the planes that collided Thursday at Watsonville Municipal Airport.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

In an update Monday, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office identified the three people killed Thursday when two planes collided in the air as they attempted to land at Watsonville Municipal Airport as 32-year-old Stuart Camenson of Santa Cruz and 75-year-old Carl Kruppa and 67-year-old Nannette Plett-Kruppa, both of Winton, California.

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UPDATE, MONDAY, AUG. 22: The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office identified the three victims of the midair collision over Watsonville Municipal Airport last week as 32-year-old Stuart Camenson of Santa Cruz and 75-year-old Carl Kruppa and 67-year-old Nannette Plett-Kruppa, both of Winton, California.

“First responders arrived and found that all three individuals involved in the crash were deceased,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a release Monday.

The couple was in the larger of the two planes, a twin-engine Cessna 340, and Camenson was in the smaller, single-engine Cessna 152, Public Information Officer Ashley Keehn confirmed to Lookout.

Per FlightAware, the Cessna 340 had been inbound Thursday afternoon to Watsonville from Turlock, about 10 miles from Winton, where the older couple lived.

The Cessna 152 was registered to United Flight Services, a flight instruction, maintenance and aircraft rental operation based at Watsonville Municipal Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were continuing to investigate the incident.
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UPDATE, FRIDAY, AUG. 19: The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday morning that three people were killed Thursday when two planes collided over Watsonville Municipal Airport.

“Our agency is focusing on notifying families of the decedents, and will release identification once all of those notifications have been completed,” the office wrote in a post on social media.

The Pajaronian reported that the dead were two men and one woman, as well as a dog.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were continuing to investigate the incident.

Aviation expert Mike McCarron told NBC Bay Area that the Watsonville airport has no control tower and is thus considered uncontrolled — a common situation for smaller airfields.

“The pilots themselves clear the airspace for all their maneuvers,” said McCarron, who added that collisions like Thursday’s are rare.

The smaller of the two planes, identified by the FAA as a single-engine Cessna 152, was registered to United Flight Services, a flight instruction, maintenance and aircraft rental operation based at Watsonville Municipal Airport.

During a Friday news conference at the airport, NTSB investigator Fabian Salazar spoke briefly about the incident.

“On behalf of all we’d like to express our sincerest condolences for those who are affected by this tragedy,” he said. “We’ll be here all day today gathering factual evidence of the scenes.”

Investigators will then conduct witness interviews and move the aircraft “to a secure facility” where they’ll continue their work.

The NTSB will publish a preliminary report with their findings in about two weeks, and a final report in one to two years. The final report will include a probable cause for the collision.

Salazar encouraged any eyewitnesses to contact NTSB at witness@ntsb.gov to help with the investigation.
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Tragedy struck the Watsonville community Thursday afternoon after two planes collided in the air over the Watsonville Municipal Airport, causing multiple fatalities.

“Multiple agencies responded to Watsonville Municipal Airport after two planes attempting to land collided,” read a tweet from the City of Watsonville. Wreckage in a hangar structure was visible at the airport. One eyewitness reported a loud noise and fire at the field; Lookout observed smoke about an hour after the crash.

City officials said they received a report at 2:56 p.m. PT about the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident, according to a statement from the FAA.

“A single-engine Cessna 152 and a twin-engine Cessna 340 collided while the pilots were on their final approaches to Watsonville Municipal Airport in Watsonville, Calif., around 3 p.m. local time today,” wrote Donnell Evans, FAA public affairs specialist, in a statement to Lookout. “One person was on board the Cessna 152 and two people were on board the Cessna 340. No injuries were reported to anyone on the ground.”

FAA representatives were on their way to the scene shortly after the incident, according to Michelle Pulido, spokesperson for the Watsonville Police Department.

Corralitos resident Cam Primavera told Lookout’s Kevin Painchaud that he was towing a horse trailer on Holohan Road, east-northeast of the airport, when one of the planes caught his attention.

“It was going extremely fast compared to what we’re used to around here, and I thought, ‘Is that for like an airshow or something?’,” he said. “It was really low and level to the ground and going substantially faster than I’m used to seeing.

“It appeared that the faster plane was coming right into the runway and the smaller plane was kind of turning to come into the runway at what appeared to be substantially less speed,” said Primavera, who returned to the perimeter of the airport after dropping off his horse.

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“I didn’t see the other plane until they hit each other, but it literally appeared as if the faster plane went right through the smaller plane, almost like a missile hitting another plane. It just continued on, and the smaller plane unfortunately just came apart and went sort of end over end.”

A news conference was planned for later Thursday in Watsonville, according to Pulido.

“After investigators verify the aircraft registration numbers at the scene, the FAA will release them on this webpage, usually on the next business day,” Evans said in the statement.

No fatalities or injuries have been reported at the airport in records that go back to 1978, according to the FAA Accident and Incident Data System (AIDS). The most recently reported incident involved one aircraft landing Feb. 13 and resulted in minor damage to a Cessna 172.

However, a family of four from Santa Cruz was killed in a crash when their plane landed next to a medical office building near Watsonville Community Hospital after taking off from the airport in 2011.

This is a developing story. Check back with Lookout and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.