A twin-engine airplane slammed into a tennis court at a swank health club and blew up Friday, killing a Canadian family of five and strewing debris that barely missed three people.
There were about six people on the courts at the Newport Beach Tennis Club, and some barely made it to safety when the plane crashed, said Amy Jones, a club receptionist. More than 125 club members were in the clubhouse, which the plane missed on its way down.Pieces of the wreckage were tangled in the fences around the center court at the club after the 8:40 a.m. crash. Flames spouted two stories high, witnesses said.
"I was the first to see the plane. I told my husband it was flying very low. Then I screamed, `It's going to crash!' We felt the heat, we felt the explosion. It knocked us," said June Vermes, who was taking tennis lessons.
The bodies of a jewelry store owner from Camrose in Alberta, Canada, his wife and three daughters were found in the wreckage of the Piper Aerostar, said National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jeff Rich. They were Anthony Ronald Deis, 35; his wife, Marilyn Aletha Deis, 34; and their daughters Amanda Lynn, 10, Jaclyn Dawn, 7 and Kimberly Lisa, 5.
The craft had just taken off from John Wayne when the pilot radioed to say he was having trouble and was returning. He had been cleared to land on any runway when his plane went down.