Two dead after Morongo Valley plane crash

UPDATED: Friday, Feb. 8, 2:30 p.m., With additional details and information.

MORONGO VALLEY — Officials investigating a plane crash in the mountains west of Hwy 62 and N. Indian Canyon Dr., just west of Desert Hot Springs, have confirmed discovering the bodies of a man and woman killed when their small plane crashed into the side of a canyon Tuesday evening, Feb. 5.

The plane, a single-engine, 1973 Cessna 172M, registered to Flying Academy Los Angeles out of Corona, CA, crashed ‘under unknown circumstances’ around 6:15 p.m, according to Federal Aviation Administration officials. Flight records indicate the plane departed San Gabriel Valley Airport headed for North Las Vegas Airport at 5:30 p.m.


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Deputies assigned to Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station and the department’s Aviation Unit were first dispatched to the area shortly before 9 p.m., after receiving the report of an air emergency involving a small plane that had been reported missing, Riverside Sheriff’s Lt. Eller later said.

Aviation Unit members eventually located the missing airplane’s wreckage scattered along two canyons, just below a ridge peak.

KESQ News drone footage of the crash site showed plane parts and debris scattered down two canyons, just below a ridge peak. KESQ News photo

Although the crash site was initially accessed by the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, “due to inclement weather the rescue effort had to be halted,” according to Eller. Officials have since returned to the crash site and completed their recovery efforts.

According to an initial coroner’s release, the victims were pronounced deceased when officials found their bodies early the next morning, and their times of death were both listed as 12:54 a.m. Neither victim have been publicly identified, pending further investigation and notification of the pair’s families.

During the rescue and recovery efforts, Cal-Trans and California Highway Patrol called for the partial closure of the south bound lane of Hwy 62 and N. Indian Canyon Dr.

KESQ News Channel 3 drone footage later showed plane parts, debris, luggage, and personal items, strewn about the crash site within the two canyons.

NTSB and FAA officials responded to the scene and their investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with any information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Palm Desert Station at (760) 836-1600 or call anonymously at (760) 341-STOP. Callers can refer to incident file number O190360022 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.

Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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