UPDATE: Big Bear residents killed after plane crashes near Banning Municipal Airport

UPDATED: Saturday, July 31, 11:30 a.m., With additional details.

BANNING, Calif. — Additional details have emerged and authorities have confirmed that two people were killed when a small plane they were traveling in crashed in a vacant field northwest of Banning Municipal Airport Friday morning.

The plane crash, which happened in the area of Hathaway and Ramsey streets, killed both occupants. Both have been since been described as being males in their 20s from Big Bear. Their names are being withheld, pending notification of their families.


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City of Banning Police Department, California Highway Patrol and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, along with CAL FIRE-Riverside County Fire Department, Morongo Fire Department and other emergency personnel, were alerted to the crash about 9:30 a.m., after receiving multiple reports of an unidentified aircraft down in a field near the airport, according to fire officials.

Arriving firefighters found a small brush fire burning near and around the destroyed wreckage of the plane, but managed to quickly extinguish the fire. It was then that they discovered the bodies of the two victims.

Both died at the scene, the fire department reported. 

Officials were seen combing the area for evidence after a small, unidentified plane crashed near the Banning Municipal Airport, killing both occupants aboard the plane yesterday morning. KESQ News Channel 3 photo

“I was out here smoking a cigarette and my wife went inside. When I turned around that’s when I heard the boom,” area resident Johnathan Bates told KESQ News Channel 3 after the fatal crash.

“I’m still shocked … Just shocked,” the resident continued. “You don’t expect a plane to crash right in front of your house.”

“The way the the response was– it’s an assumption that (the pilot) probably sounded in distress because (first responders) were here like 20 seconds after it happened. They were here immediately. CHP, Banning PD, Morongo PD, the fire department,” Bates added.

Officials from several local and federal agencies were later seen combing the crash site atop a small rocky hill for evidence of where the plane originated from and what could have caused of the crash.


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The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, and FAA officials have since reported there were no injuries reported to anyone on the ground.

It was not immediately clear where the victims had taken off from or where they were planning on heading, and officials are continuing to investigate the fatal crash.


“An unidentified airplane crashed in a vacant lot northwest of Banning Municipal Airport in Banning, Calif., around 9:30 a.m. local time Friday. There were two people aboard. No injuries were reported to anyone on the ground. FAA will release the aircraft tail number after investigators verify it at the scene. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.”

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.

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KESQ News Channel 3 images

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.