The fourth victim of the Riverside plane crash has died, despite multiple surgeries to save her life. The crash occurred on February 27 shortly after a Cessna 310 carrying five people took off from Riverside Airport in California, then crashed into two homes. Stacey Pierce, who was 46-years-old, died of her injuries a week later in hospital.
Investigators are looking into what caused the plane crash, but in such circumstances, there is a wide range of factors to consider, including mechanical difficulties in the plane and pilot error. Although situations where planes crash into homes are not common, they do happen, putting people on the ground at risk of serious injuries.
Victims of California Plane Crash Went to Cheerleading Competition
The Cessna 310 had flown five people, including the pilot, from San Jose to watch a cheerleading competition at the Disneyland Resort. Almost immediately after takeoff on the return trip from Riverside to San Jose, the plane clipped a home and then crashed into another home. A third home was destroyed by the resulting fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the Riverside plane crash but has released a preliminary report about the events leading up to the tragedy. Although the preliminary report does not list any causes of the crash, it does note that the pilot had difficulty starting the plane prior to the crash.
NTSB Report Describes Riverside Plane Crash
“[The pilot] started the right engine and then attempted to start the left engine,” the report said. “After several unsuccessful attempts, the left engine started, and the pilot contacted air traffic control.”
Previously, a witness to the takeoff told reporters that the plane taxied back to the terminal and all onboard got off and went to the terminal during rain. Once the rain slowed, they got on the plane again and eventually took off.
Some experts have questioned why the plane took off without a mechanic first looking at it, given that it took a few tries to start the engine.
Meanwhile, the NTSB’s report indicates the air traffic controller had difficulty issuing clearance to the pilot and had to give the clearance multiple times before the pilot correctly repeated the instructions back to the controller. Witnesses indicated the pilot “required progressive taxi instructions” to the departure runway.
Once the plane made it to the runway, takeoff went smoothly until the plane entered the clouds and began to descend with a low left-wing.
Victims of Small Plane Crash Identified
Killed in the crash were Nouri Hijazi, the 83-year-old pilot; Dana Hijazi, Nouri’s 67-year-old wife; and Adine Ferales, a 22-year-old friend. Stacey Pierce, daughter of Nouri and Dana, died a week later in hospital.
Pierce had been in critical condition in the hospital since the crash. In an attempt to save her life, both Pierce’s legs were amputated. She also suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of her body and had been put on a ventilator and feeding tubes.
Sylvia Farelas, the fifth person on the plane and mother of Adine, has so far survived her injuries, but suffered burns and required surgery after the Riverside plane crash.
Pierce Remembered by Husband
“She was just a beautiful person inside and out,” Pierce’s husband Richard said. “She was the love of my life. I can’t even wrap my head around going forward without her, but we have four kids, so I’m going to stay strong and support them through all this.”
Pierce’s daughter was involved in the cheerleading competition the victims attended but made it home safely on the team bus.
A GoFundME page has been set up to help the Pierce family with travel and medical expenses. The page was set up before Pierce passed away and has raised almost half of its $75,000 goal. That money will now go to help with the cost of the funerals for the family.
Riverside Plane Crash Sent Debris into Home
In its report, the NTSB notes that the crash sent parts of the plane up to 200 feet from the crash site, including engines and propellers that were found in a bedroom 100 feet from the impact.
Although it was lucky that no people were injured when the plane crashed into the home, one person posting on the GoFundMe page wrote that her relatives lost their home and their beloved family pets when the plane crashed into their home.
NTSB Investigation into Cessna Plane Crash Will Continue
With the preliminary report released, the NTSB will now attempt to determine which factors contributed to the plane crash, although one expert said in most plane accidents a combination of factors creates the circumstances that lead to a crash.
“All aircraft accidents are the result of more than one thing. All of them,” said Tom Anthony, USC director of aviation and safety security. “There are a cascade of things that come together to cause an accident.”
The Cessna 310 involved in the crash was registered to Nouri Hijazi and was built in 1974, although the age of the plane is not considered unusual. Although Cessna 310 planes are considered relatively safe, they have reportedly been involved in 600 accidents since 1982. Of those, 184 accidents were fatal.
There are also reports that the plane released a trail of smoke and that it rocked back and forth during takeoff. Experts have suggested the plane may have lost an engine, which could have been catastrophic, or that a fuel line possibly broke. Whether one or all of those factors contributed to the accident remains to be seen. In addition to eyewitness reports, investigators will also examine the plane’s maintenance history and how weight on the plane was distributed. A final report from the NTSB could take up to 18 months.