TORRANCE (CBSLA) — A pilot was killed and his lone passenger critically injured Thursday in the crash of a small plane onto the roof of a commercial building east of Torrance Municipal Airport.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane nose-dived into a commercial building behind two restaurants in the 25300 block of Crenshaw Boulevard around noon. It was not immediately clear what what led to the crash.
The aircraft — a Cessna model 177 — crashed sometime after departing from Torrance Municipal Airport, according to a spokesperson with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The identity of the fatally injured pilot was not immediately available, city public information officer Michael Smith said.
One of the pilot’s friends took a photo earlier in the day at the airport as he taxied at the airport. The friend, Kayvon Hoveyda, said he was shocked.
“I’m going to miss his sense of humor,” Hoveyda said. “It was just shocking because out of nowhere I see him, and then out of nowhere he’s gone.”
The location of the crash was a building that houses a California Pizza Kitchen location just east of the Torrance airport.
Crenshaw Boulevard was shut down, resulting in heavy traffic in the surrounding area.
“It sounded like a sputtering noise, a thud,” said witness Jess Ortiz. “It didn’t sound like a car crash or anything like that.”
Fellow pilots said that just before takeoff, the pilot was looking forward to taking his first student out to fly.
“He was all excited because he was soloing a student,” Hoveyda said. “He was just making sure that his student knew what he was doing takeoffs and landings.”
Officials were inspecting the integrity of the structure following the crash.
Audio recordings obtained by CBSLA captured just before the plane’s takeoff indicated the pilot reported to the airport control tower that a plane taking off in front of him was in some type of accident.
The aircraft’s tail number traced back to Torrance-based Heading West, which rents out a Cessna model 177 to pilots and helps pilots get their certifications.
Federal investigators planned to extract the plane from the building Friday morning and have more information about the ongoing investigation.