Aircraft crashes near El Cajon east of Gillespie Field, authorities say


The aircraft crashed near Pepper Drive about 7:15 Monday evening.

An aircraft crashed and caught fire Monday night in the unincorporated Bostonia neighborhood near El Cajon, authorities said.

The crash was reported about 7:15 p.m. near Pepper Drive and Somerlane Street, a little west of North Second Street, according to San Diego sheriff’s Lt. Mike Krugh.

Police and sheriff’s deputies were shutting down roads in the area, which is about 2 miles east of Gillespie Field airport in El Cajon.

No other details, including information about injuries, were immediately available.

The CHP log indicated the crash knocked down power poles and power lines in the neighborhood, and a San Diego Gas & Electric outage map showed two outages in the area, with about 2,580 customers without electricity. About a half-dozen SDG&E trucks were in the area of Pepper Drive and Shir Mar Place in El Cajon Monday night.

All traffic lights at the intersection of North Second Street and Greenfield Drive were totally dark. All homes and businesses in the area were without power.

Just before 9 p.m., the Sheriff’s Department tweeted that the burning wreckage of the plane had been extinguished.

Lakeside resident Suzie Mercadante was outside walking her dogs around 7:15 p.m. when she saw “a blue streak and then a giant big orange ball,” then “the blackest smoke just billowing out.”

Thomas O’Brien said he lives a few blocks from the crash site and was relaxing on his couch when he heard the plane approaching. He said the neighborhood is in the path of planes landing at Gillespie Field, so air traffic is common, but this plane was unusually loud.

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“It was 10 times louder than normal,” O’Brien said. “My walls started shaking, like there was an earthquake. I froze. Honestly, I thought it was about to hit us.”

O’Brien said he saw the explosion through his back window in the reflection off his pool. Moments later, the sound reached him, and then his power went out.

O’Brien checked on his wife and son to make sure they were safe, then took off toward the crash site to see if he could help. Fire crews were already on scene.

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The Sheriff’s Department said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board would be on scene in the morning and would handle the investigation.

Updated: December 28, 2021 — 6:24 am