Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Cub Crafters CCK-1865 Carbon Cub, N303KP: Fatal accident occurred May 31, 2020 in Valley Center, San Diego County, California

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Diego, California

Aircraft crashed into a front yard under unknown circumstances.


Date: 01-JUN-20
Time: 00:57:00Z
Regis#: N303KP
Aircraft Make: CUB CRAFTERS
Aircraft Model: CCK
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 1
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov.

Raquel Contreras and her uncle Peter Bierle.

Updated June 3, 2020. 

Sunday night a Cub Crafters CCK-1865 Carbon Cub airplane crashed in the front yard of a Palomar Vista Drive residence killing the 57 year-old pilot and gravely injuring his juvenile passenger who was transported by Mercy Air to Rady Children’s Hospital.  

Shortly before the crash, neighbors in the area heard the engine throttle down and shortly after the plane plunged into the front yard of a residence in the area, without damaging the house or hitting anyone on the ground.  

Before first responders arrived, as many as 30 neighbors converged on the accident site to do what they could to put out the fire that had started on the plane.  Neighbors pulled the 12-year-old child from the plane, and moved her to safety as someone drove a tractor over and covered the wreckage with dirt to try and extinguish the fire.

A witness on-scene told The Roadrunner, “We were out in the backyard and we saw this plane circling around for about five minutes. He then flew over our backyard twice.  It was just low.  Then he started getting lower.  I was telling my son, he must be circling that house for a reason.” The witness continued, “I definitely heard him throttle down, as he was coasting around I heard him throttle back up again. I honestly think the plane was in his control.  It then just went quiet, and we heard the crash.”

VCPUSD Superintendent Ron McCowan was on-scene.  A witness told The Roadrunner, “Before the first responders arrived, everyone seemed to just look to Ron for guidance. He really just took charge. It was comforting.”

Valley Center Fire Chief Joe Napier described how neighbors came together to rescue the girl and put out the fire. The various agencies all worked closely together, including the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration),  National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the California Highway Patrol, which provided technical assistance. “When you look at the experience on scene with the captains, there’s hundreds of years of experience and each of those people had experience responding to an aircraft accident—to help make things go as best as they can in a bad situation.”

The chief got a phone call Sunday evening while he was with his family. He received a call from Phil Bell, president of the fire board. “He called me:, ‘Hey, Joe, an aircraft crashed down the street from my house!’ ”

By the time Napier had changed into his gear and was in his car, the dispatch had been logged. “There is a special protocol for a downed aircraft, I added a Cal Fire response because I know that area has a lot of brush, and I was worried that fire would come up from the canyon,” he said.

As units converged on the scene, VC Fire Captain Dave Loop gave an initial report on conditions and started to establish an Incident Command and tasked fire fighters from all different agencies that responded to put the fire out and extricate victims from the aircraft. 

Chief Napier told The Roadrunner, “His [Loop’s] description of coming on scene was that twenty to thirty citizens were attempting to effect a rescue of the little girl. And there were some heroic things that happened, keeping the fire at bay with hoses and putting dirt on the fire and confirming that a couple who were trained in CPR took pulses on the pilot to conform that he was dead on their arrival.”

Knowing that the pilot couldn’t be helped at that point, and because his legs were trapped under the plane motor, “they reached the conclusion that they needed to concentrate on getting the little girl out and keeping her from being burned—which they did.”

The 12-year-old suffered some burns and was flown to UCSD Medical Center to have her airway evaluated for burns from the superheated gases. “She was first sent to the burn unit, and then to Rady’s Children’s Hospital when they found she didn’t have respiratory burns,” said Napier. “At Rady she’s getting the best possible care for the best possible outcome.”

“Amazing leadership”

The chief singled out several neighbors for special praise: “There were a few residents on scene who provided amazing leadership and organized the group in order to effect a successful outcome, including Ron McCowan, Sam Beckett and an neighbor named Adam. Ron was the initial CPR certified care provider to check the pulse on the pilot and was saddened that he didn’t survive, Bill Dunckell had a pocket knife he used to cut the seat belt off to try to free both.”

Napier emphasized, “They were leaders in our community who were operating at an amazing level, in harm’s way, with fire and aviation gas spilling down. They put that all aside, kept their heads clear to get the little girl out and saved her life.”

The first and most important thing, said Napier, “was making sure that the child was immediately air lifted where she needed to go and that we continued to stabilize the aircraft fuel. Once the life was saved then we didn’t need to risk lives when there was nothing savable.” 

He added, “From there it was a coordinated effort to provide religious and psychological services to the family through Father Luke Jauregui, TIP (Trauma Intervention Program)  and Pastor Bill Trok to provide our community with extra TLC in a very emotional event.” 

Sheriff’s deputies were also at the scene assisting those residents and—recognizing the danger, keeping people away from danger.

“The fire was out within ten minutes after fire department arrival. We got the fuel under control, then we took a step back and let the investigators come in and do their job.”

He concluded, “I want to say how much I appreciate our community spirit and the fact that a community like ours has the spirit to set aside our own personal fears to help someone in need. That goes a long way, especially in these times. When and if the family recovers from this we will do our best to celebrate the great things that occurred, as soon as we can, from this.”

He also took a moment to praise The Roadrunner for being at the scene early on to take photos that help the investigators from the FAA and the NTSB. “These photos are going to go a long way to help them piece this together. It also helps the fire department with our training. It helps us get a good perspective of what happens, and the lessons we can learn every time. As long as we can have access to that stuff, it’s helpful to us.”

Update on condition of Raquel Contreras

The Roadrunner spoke to Roxana Contreras-McInerny, Raquel’s “paternal Aunty” who spoke about her progress.

She said that Raquel’s mother, Renee Contreras (who is a teacher at VC Elementary School) is focusing on her daughter’s well-being and being at the hospital to be with her.

The “Aunty” said, “We all want to say that we are extremely grateful. She (Renee) can’t stop crying and being emotional for all of the support of those who have contacted us. And all of the people who were there at the scene who pulled her out. She is extremely grateful for all of the support she is getting.”

Raquel is making progress, she said. “She has a very long road to recovery. She will be in the hospital four to five weeks. She just had orthopedic surgery that went well. She has a tube in her mouth so she can’t eat right now. She is bleeding in the brain and her internal bleeding is at the spleen and small intestine. That is still a major concern.”

“The brave young girl is also suffering from spinal compression and the doctors don’t yet know the long-term effects of that”, said Mrs. Contreras-McInerny. “She can move her arms and legs but she constantly complains about her back.”

She added, “She is an extremely strong-willed little girl. She is intelligent and athletic and continues to stay in a different emotional state. She has continued to ask about her uncle. She grins and gets very happy when she is told she has thousands of people praying for her. Today we gave her an update. We all got on a speaker phone and gave her updates. We want to get her to the point where she has people in every single state praying for her. It makes her happy. We are asking for continued prayers for her.”

Raquel is just down the hall from another young girl, also from Valley Center, who almost drowned earlier this week and is recovering. She wants to talk to her soon. 

Raquel is a member of the St. Stephen Catholic community, as was her uncle, Peter Bierle, the son of longtime VC residents Arthur & Pat Bierle.  

She concluded, “It’s going to be a long road to recovery but they expect her to recover. They feel like she’s going to recover. We are hoping for a one hundred percent recovery.”

Residents can send get-well cards to Raquel at Rady Children’s Hospital. 

Investigating the accident

The FAA was in the first investigating agency on scene. But on Monday it handed over the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The Federal Aviation Administration conducted the on-scene investigation and then the aircraft was moved to a more secure location, according to Terry Williams, NTSB spokesman.

“We are in the first stages of the investigation,” said Williams. The first stages will include looking at the aircraft and how it performed, along with the maintenance records and the pilot’s records. “We will look at weather conditions. If there are any witnesses we will speak to them. Also we will look at any video that captured the accident. Those are standard parts of our investigation,” he said. 

The investigation will take a year to a year and a half to make a determination, said Williams. “In the next few days we will put out a preliminary report, without analysis or determination of cause.”

Help for the family

A Go Fund Me account has been created to benefit the child who was injured in the crash, 12-year-old Raquel Contreras. click here

A group has been setup on Facebook by Roxana, “Rally for Raquel”.

The Valley Center Community Aid group has also established a fund to assist the family.  To donate online, go to VCRealestatepros.com and use the donate button on the bottom of the page. To donate by mail make check to VCCAG and send to PO Box 962, Valley Center, CA 92082. 


VALLEY CENTER, California (KGTV) - Family members call a 12-year-old girl's survival after a small plane crash in Valley Center Sunday - a "miracle."

"Racquel is always on our mind, and we are hopeful," said Roxana McInerny.

A smiling photo of her niece Raquel Contreras was taken moments before her uncle Peter Bierle, a seasoned pilot, took her up in his single-engine, experimental aircraft, early Sunday evening. In the flight plan was a special flyover.

"She wanted to fly over her best friend's house and see if she could shout 'Happy Birthday!' and wish her a happy birthday," said McInerny.

McInerny says about 30 minutes into the flight, they reached that friend's home along Palomar Vista Drive. Witnesses reported the plane circling the home and the sound of an engine sputtering, before the plane took a nosedive into the yard.

Bierle, 57, died at the scene. Raquel was badly injured. Dozens of neighbors ran to the plane.

"She was stuck in some debris. They had to cut the seat belts away, I believe, to get her out of the plane," said McInerny.

Raquel was rushed to the hospital with fractures to her skull, sternum and hand, also suffering internal bleeding, a brain bleed and spinal injuries. Raquel is now in stable condition in the ICU, conscious and will survive, but the long-term impact of her injuries remain unknown.

Still, McInerny is beyond thankful.

"It's a miracle to think she has survived that's she's alive and recovering. We are forever grateful to those who helped her and who are helping her now," said McInerny.

A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help the family with expenses.


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