UPDATE: FAA confirms rare WWII-era “flying wing” crashed into CRC prison in Norco, pilot killed

UPDATED: Monday, April 22, 3:20 p.m., With confirmation of plane involved, witness accounts, and other details

UPDATED: Monday, April 22, 4:11 p.m., With confirmation of pilot’s death

See Original Story and updates below

NORCO — As officials are beginning to investigate today’s crash of a plane into the prison grounds of Norco’s California Rehabilitation Center, FAA officials have confirmed the plane that exploded on impact was an ultra rare, WWII-era plane.

“A Northrop N9M aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances in the prison yard of the California Rehabilitation Center,” FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer has said.

Kenitzer also confirmed the plane departed from nearby Chino airport just before the crash. The airport is home to the Planes of Fame Museum, where the N-9MB – reportedly one of only four ever built – was housed. The plane, described as a one-third scale, 60-ft span flying wing built primarily of wood, was used for the development of the full size, 172-ft wingspan Northrop XB-35 and YB-35 flying wing long-range, heavy bombers.

The plane was extremely popular among plane aficionados and made appearances at countless area air shows.

FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer has confirmed that a rare, Northrop F-9MB Flying Wing crashed onto the prison grounds of Norco’s California Rehabilitation Center.

Numerous initial reports indicated the pilot was killed on impact and Riverside County Sheriff’s Media Information Bureau later confirmed that coroner’s officials have arrived at the scene and are assisting in the ongoing investigation.

“RSO can confirm that the Coroner’s Bureau is at the scene and assisting with the fatal plane crash,” sheriff’s officials wrote in an updated 4:01 p.m. Tweet. Although the sheriff’s Tweet said it was unknown how many occupants were in the plane at the time of the deadly crash, the plane that FAA officials have confirmed was involved was a single-seater with a crew capacity of just one pilot. Officials have not released any details of who was flying the plane at the time of the crash.

As the investigation was getting underway, witnesses to the crash began to come forward with first-hand accounts of the tragic accident.

Area resident Benjamin Denis was one of several who posted on social media about what he knew regarding the crash.

“I was at the airport when it took off,” Denis said of the rare, blue and yellow, plane. “I heard they lost contact and then scrambled the emergency crews.”

Another area resident, Alisha Marie Hajek, said she watched the distinctive plane go down.

“I started to hear the engine fail,” Hajek explained on social media. “I watched him turn the plane around and head towards the prison, as if he knew he was gonna crash and didn’t want to start a fire in the riverbed,” Hajek continued. “God bless him and his family.”

FAA and NTSB officials have reportedly arrived at the scene and will be investigating the cause of the crash.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.


ORIGINAL STORY: BREAKING: Small plane crashes into CRC prison in Norco

UPDATED: Monday, April 22, 2:20 p.m., With additional details.

NORCO — Emergency personnel are at the scene of a small plane that crashed inside the grounds of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, this afternoon, Monday, April 22, according to the California Highway Patrol and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Numerous reports indicate the plane crashed within the prison compound and exploded upon impact, igniting a fire. A battalion chief at the scene has reported the plane, which he described as possibly a single-engine Cessna, went down in an area of the prison that is under construction. Fire officials have also reported that prison correctional personnel were assisting firefighters in knocking down the small fire that erupted after the crash.

Other eyewitness reports from the scene indicate the plane was a yellow and blue, Northrop N-9MB Flying Wing from the nearby Planes of Fame Museum.

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This afternoon’s crash was initially reported near Hamner Ave. and Fourth St., per a CHP incident log. A Riverside County Sheriff’s Tweet later updated the plane crashed in the 1900 block of 4th St.; however, updated reports indicate the plane actually crashed onto the prison grounds, in the area of Fifth St. and Western Ave.

Officials are at the scene of a small plane that crashed into the grounds of California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. ABC7 News photo

According to CHP dispatchers, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is currently the lead agency in the investigation; however, RSO has reported National Transportation Board officials will be assuming the investigation upon their arrival at the scene.

RSO’s Media Information Bureau released a Tweet at 12:47 p.m. advising, “At 12:10 p.m., deputies received reports of an air emergency in the 1900 block of 4th St.”

“The circumstances are unknown and the NTSB will be conducting the investigation into the plane crash,” RSO’s MIB continued in their Tweet. “No further information is available for release from RSO.”

It is not yet known where the plane departed from or was traveling to at the time of the crash. However, there are four airports in the area; including Chino Municipal, Corona Municipal, Riverside Municipal, and Ontario International.

Although fire officials have reported the downed plane was possibly a single-engine Cessna, eyewitness reports from the scene indicate the plane was possibly a Northrop N-9MB Flying Wing from the nearby Planes of Fame Museum. No further confirmation or updates have been reported as of this article.

The condition of the pilot was not immediately known, but no injuries were reported among staff or inmates at the prison.

As of this report, neither FAA or NTSB officials had arrived at the scene or responded to requests for information or details regarding the crash.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Multiple eyewitness reports from the scene indicate that the plane that crashed was a blue and yellow, Northrop N-9MB Flying Wing from nearby Planes of Fame Museum. However, officials have not confirmed the type of plane involved.

ABC7 News video

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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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