2 dead after WWII-era plane crashes at Father’s Day event

CHINO, Calif. — Two people died Saturday when a World War II-era plane crashed shortly after lifting off from an airport in Southern California during a Father’s Day event, according to multiple reports.

The twin-engine Lockheed 12A, built in the 1930s, crashed at 12:35 p.m. after departing Chino Airport with two people onboard, KCAL-TV reported. The plane caught fire after it crashed just west of the airport, the Southern California News Group reported, citing Chino Valley Fire District Battalion Chief Bryan Turner.

The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office identified the victims as 67-year-old Frank J. Wright of Riverside and 71-year-old Michael P. Gilles of Aliso Viejo, both licensed pilots, the news agency reported.

Wright was the chief of operations at the Yanks Air Museum on the west end of the Chino Airport and took part in a panel discussion at a Father’s Day event held at the museum before the crash, KABC-TV reported, citing an unidentified witness. At the time, the museum was hosting the Yanks Air Pops & Props celebration for Father’s Day, according to its website.

Museum officials acknowledged the crash in a post Sunday on social media, saying one of its aircraft “was involved in an accident in an unoccupied field near Chino Airport resulting in two fatalities aboard the aircraft.”

“At this time we are working with local authorities and the FAA,” the post read. “Yanks Air Museum will be closed until further notice as our family deals with this tragedy, and we appreciate your patience and respect for our privacy as we navigate through this difficult time.”

A witness told KABC he was at the museum’s Father’s Day event taking photos and video when the plane “started listing to the left … very sharp, and started going down.”

“(It) took a nose dive and the first part of the plane that hit was the left wing, and that’s where the fuel was I guess, and what happened was immediate explosion,” he said.

The cause of the crash remained unclear on Monday. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating, according to KCAL.

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