4 California plane crash victims were flight nurses, pilots

December 30, 2021 GMT

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — Two flight nurses and two pilots were the people killed when an airplane crashed and burned near San Diego earlier this week, acquaintances and authorities confirmed.

The Learjet 35A went down in poor weather just after 7 p.m. Monday in an unincorporated area of El Cajon east of Gillespie Field, where authorities said it was scheduled to land.

The twin-engine jet was registered to El Cajon-based Med Jet LLC, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. A request for information was sent to an email listing for the company.

Acquaintances identified two of the victims as flight nurses Tina Ward and Laurie Gentz.

On Wednesday, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office identified two other victims as Douglas James Grande, 45, and Julian Jorge Bugaj, 67.


All four worked for Aeromedevac Air Ambulance, according to the El Cajon-based company.

“The loss of our friends has left us an indescribable void,” Medevac said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “To both us and their families they are unsung heroes, dedicating their lives caring for others in need throughout our community.”

Another Facebook posting Tuesday by the Oceanside Firefighters Association said that Ward was one of the crash victims. She was married to retired Oceanside Fire Chief Joe Ward.

“We are shocked and saddened by this devastating news and are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the association said.

Also on Facebook, the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics identified Getz as president of the local union chapter and said she died along with the flight crew.

The plane, which had made an earlier flight to Lake Havasu, departed John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was approaching Gillespie Field in El Cajon, about 78 miles (125.5 kilometers) to the south, when it crashed. Nobody on the ground was hurt.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating but didn’t immediately release any information.

National Weather Service data described fog and mist at Gillespie shortly before the crash. Radio communications between the jet and the airfield recorded by LiveATC.net indicated that trouble happened suddenly.

The pilot canceled an instrument flight rules approach to one runway and requested a switch to another runway using visual flight rules.

After the switch was granted and new instructions were given, the pilot asked that the field lights be turned up and was told they were already at 100%. The pilot suddenly exclaimed three times and screamed.