Lauren Winkler, UCLA Grad, ID'd as Santa Monica Jet Crash Victim
Lauren Winkler via Facebook
The first of four victims in Sunday's private jet crash at Santa Monica airport was identified by the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner as 28-year-old Lauren Winkler of Irvine.
See also: Fiery Crash at Santa Monica Airport.
A man who says he's a close friend with Winkler's father blogged that she was the girlfriend of one of the other victims believed to have been on the flight, Luke Benjamin. Lt. Larry Dietz of the coroner's office, however, told us positive IDs on the three others weren't expected today:
The post by Michael Levin says another victim was the yet-to-be-identified female companion of Luke's father, real estate mogul Mark Benjamin, also believed to have been on the flight from Idaho that crashed into a hangar and erupted into flames about 6:20 p.m. Sunday:
Lauren had been traveling to Idaho for the weekend with her boyfriend, his father, and another woman. Her boyfriend's father, a business owner and an accomplished pilot, had been at the controls, when The Citation II suddenly skidded off the runway after landing and crashed into a hangar, which collapsed on the jet, causing an instantaneous fireball that immediately killed all passengers.
Since flight manifests for private aircraft do not require the names of the passengers, Lauren's father Gary and her mother Carole remained in an agonizing limbo state for hours, and then two whole days, while the coroner's office matched dental records with the bodies removed from the jet.
There were no survivors.
Levin says Winkler, a UCLA graduate, worked as "a fundraiser and executive for an organization called Save A Child's Heart, which provided free open-heart surgery in Israeli hospitals for children from Africa and the Middle East."
That organization says she produced television commercials in Los Angeles, New York and Tel Aviv before joining it.
Dietz of the coroner's office told us its cause of death determination has been "deferred" for now.
The crash revived concerns about safety at Santa Monica Airport, which was not built for jets.
[Update at 9:03 p.m.]: Two more victims were identified, a coroner's official told us tonight: 63-year-old Mark Benjamin, already believed to have been on-board, and a woman described above as his companion, 53-year-old Kyla Dupont of San Diego.
A fourth victim, believed to Benjamin's son Luke, had yet to be identified, the investigator said.
[Update at 3:20 p.m. Sunday]: The fourth victim has been identified by the coroner's office as 28-year-old Lucas ("Luke") Benjamin, according to City News Service.
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