Small plane crashes onto Calif. school playground; pilot killed

Pilot killed when plane crashes on Calif. elementary school playground

ORCUTT, Calif. (KSBY/CNN) - Officials are investigating the death of a pilot whose single-engine plane crashed onto a California elementary school’s playground. No one was at the school at the time because of stay-at-home orders.

Home surveillance video captured the moment Wednesday morning when a Cirrus SR20 single-engine plane crashed onto the basketball courts at Ralph Dunlap Elementary in Santa Maria, California.

Witness Andrew Perez was working on a nearby roof when he saw the plane go down.

The pilot of a Cirrus SR20 was killed when the single-engine plane crashed onto the basketball courts at Ralph Dunlap Elementary in Santa Maria, California.
The pilot of a Cirrus SR20 was killed when the single-engine plane crashed onto the basketball courts at Ralph Dunlap Elementary in Santa Maria, California. (Source: Santa Barbara County Fire/KSBY/CNN)

"We heard a noise, looked up, and all of a sudden, we seen a parachute fall out. As soon as the parachute hit the floor, it just ignited right away," Perez said. "I was just shocked."

The fiery crash happened on a blacktop that would have been filled with 4th through 6th graders at recess if the school was not closed due to the shelter-at-home order brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fiery crash happened on a blacktop that would have been filled with 4th through 6th graders at recess if the school was not closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fiery crash happened on a blacktop that would have been filled with 4th through 6th graders at recess if the school was not closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: KEYT/CNN)

Many neighbors saw the immediate aftermath and called 911.

"Just getting into the car heading home and saw just a big puff of black smoke and thought, ‘What the heck?’" witness Laura Lutz said.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department confirmed the pilot was killed on impact. He was the only one on board.

"I usually see a lot of things in roofing but nothing like that," Perez said.

The crash is under investigation. The plane had reportedly departed from Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles and was headed for Santa Maria.

Copyright 2020 KSBY, Albert Mendoza, Randy Tate, Santa Barbara County Fire via CNN. All rights reserved.