EL MONTE, Calif. (FOX 11) - A small "homebuilt" plane crashed shortly after takeoff from San Gabriel Valley Airport on Friday, killing the pilot, authorities said.
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"Just all of the sudden it did a quick jerk and nosedived straight down in the ground and spun around a little bit." said Kevin Ward, who was working nearby. He described the terrifying moment a single engine experimental plane fell from the sky shortly after takeoff.
"It seemed like he started turning early...towards us...and I don't know it looked like something broke on his steering." said Ward.
He called 9-1-1 and took a cell phone video of the moments before paramedics arrived.
The deadly crash happened around 9:30 am. National Transportation Safety Board investigators say witnesses heard the engine quit right before the crash.
The pilot died on impact. Authorities identified him as 63 year-old Jeffrey Ying, a business owner and experienced pilot who was also a member of the Elite Tiger Squadron Flying Team. The squadron performs at airshows and special events around the country.
Members posted a message on their Facebook page in remembrance of Ying calling him a kind and generous man.
According to his Tiger Squadron bio, Ying has logged more than 2,000 flying hours. He was also the first person of Chinese descent to fly around world in a single engine plane. Investigators will be looking into why Ying appeared to turn around when his plane apparently had mechanical issues.
Mobile app users, click here to watch a press conference about the crash.
"Pilots are taught that if they have a problem they need to land straight ahead...turning around can bleed off too much air speed and it increases your stall speed." said Patrick Jones,Air Safety Investigator with the NTSB.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was a "homebuilt, single-engine Pazmany PL-2" that crashed on airport property while departing from Runway 19 around 9:30 a.m. The pilot was the only person
on board, according to the FAA.
The airport was formerly known as El Monte Airport.
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