A Santa Monica development company said today that its president and his son were indeed believed to have been aboard the private jet that crashed at Santa Monica Airport last night.
Morley Builders Vice President Charles Muttillo said this on the company's website:
We are aware of a plane crash at Santa Monica Airport last night. While we do not have specific facts, we believe that our president and CEO, Mark Benjamin, and his son, Luke Benjamin, a senior project engineer with us, were on board. We are unable to issue a further statement at this time.
Bodies had not yet been recovered from the wreckage. The Cessna Citation jet linked to Benjamin slammed into a hangar at Santa Monica Airport after landing about 6:20 p.m. yesterday, authorities said.
See also: Fiery Crash at Santa Monica Airport.
The crash created a ball of flames and first responders were unable to pull any bodies from the wreckage.
The eight-seat jet flew to the Westside from Hailey, Idaho, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told us last night.
The cause of the crash was still under investigation, though there were unconfirmed reports that landing gear or a tire possibly failed.
Mark Benjamin is the son of noted developer Morley Benjamin, who was behind many iconic L.A. projects, including L.A.'s Library Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
Morley Benjamin's son had a hand in the renovation of the Getty Villa in Malibu.
[Update at 1:20 p.m.]: A National Transportation Safety Board official said during a news conference at Santa Monica Airport this afternoon that investigators probably wouldn't be able to get inside the fuselage until later today or tonight.
He told reporters that two cranes will be needed to lift metal trusses and walls from the hangar that collapsed, then fell onto the jet.
The official reiterated that all those aboard the plane were believed to be dead. But he indicated there was no passenger manifest for the flight.
“I don't think there is a manifest,” he said. “We're looking into it.”
The crash damaged an unknown number of cars and planes inside the hangar struck by the jet, the NTSB official said.
The jet landed, veered right, hit a runway marker, then plowed into the hangar and erupted into flames, according to his account.
A tire failing upon landing was just one of “many possibilities” being investigated, the official said.
Floodlights will be brought in to facilitate an investigation tonight, he said.