Six Die When Citation Crashes In Fog


Six people killed in the crash of Cessna 550 were apparently heading home on an early morning flight from Las Vegas on Saturday. CBS is reporting all six, ranging in age from 25 to 51, were from the immediate area of Murrieta, California. Authorities told CBS the aircraft was on its second attempt to land at French Valley Airport at 4:15 a.m. when it crashed about 500 feet from the runway and caught fire. All the victims died at the scene.

The plane had left Harry Reid International Airport an hour earlier. There were two pilots onboard: Riese Lenders, 25, of Rancho Palos Verdes and Manuel Vargas-Regalado, 32, of Temecula. The airport has a single 6,000-foot runway (18/36) with an RNAV approach for Runway 18. The aircraft ended up short of the threshold and the crash ignited a brush fire.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Weather at F70 at that time was 200-3/4. Mins for the LPV are 250-7/8. And they’d already missed the first attempt. What made them think they’d do better the second time? Perhaps the CVR will tell us…

    • How can one be certain they were even WAAS capable to shoot the LPV. It’s a 1979 vintage aircraft. The LNAV/DA and LNAV/MDA have minimums of 521 and 430 respectively, which seems a little odd.

  2. On the 2% chance that the crash was something other than what we all think it was, let’s hold off pointing fingers until the investigation is done. If the final report indicts the crew for “pilot error” the crash should then be labeled a negligent homicide, not an accident. It’s an accident if the crash was caused by a fault other than the crew, such as an autopilot taking a nosedive. It’s a homicide if caused by willful misconduct of the crew such as intentionally busting mins.

    Willful misconduct leading to death or injury is a felony in most states.

    • ” It’s a homicide if caused by willful misconduct of the crew such as intentionally busting mins. Willful misconduct leading to death or injury is a felony in most states.”

      Yep. If that’s the case the pilots should tried and if found guilty, spend the rest of their lives in prison. /s

      • Yes. The negligent homicide rap would apply to anyone driving a car, or boat, who subsequently kill folks because of negligence. Please tell me why the responsibility (perhaps sentence as you put it) should be less for operating an aircraft?

        From the tone of your “life sentence” response it sounds like you somehow think pilots are special. So special that they can kill people without consequences.

        As I initially stated this crash needs to be fully investigated first. If it is determined that the crew intentionally descended below mins without appropriate runway or lights in sight, it is not an accident. It is a homicide.

        The Koby Bryant crash was not an accident, it was willful misconduct and negligent homicide. The Lear that crashed at Gillespie, circling east at night, was willful misconduct and a homicide etc etc. Both crashes were products of “normalized deviation”. In fact thinking a pilot should be exempt from prosecution is a form of “Normalized deviation”. We have grown accustomed to accepting the unacceptable. Shame on us.

    • It may not be as willful as some think. Looking at the ADSb track, it was a well flown flight that included a well flown missed approach on the first try. During the miss a pilot may have seen the runway lights or what they thought were runway lights and decided to try again being a little more alert for them and ready to start down next time. Industry Way is well lit and slightly offset from runway 18 and starts maybe 500 feet prior to 18. If it was mistook for the runway the crew may have left minimums legally, thinking they had the lights, but with poor visual cues with fatal consequences.

    • Hyperbole much?

      Thousands of pilots have killed people busting mins. Please give me one example in the past 100 years where someone was thrown in jail

      “It’s a homicide if caused by willful misconduct of the crew such as intentionally busting mins”‘
      No, I would review your definitions in the Ca. Penal Code. There’s no “negligent homicide” in Ca., but look at case law for Ca. Penal Sec. 192 and tell me exactly what you think are the charges and your reasoning for how you would support those charges.

      “If the final report indicts the crew for “pilot error” the crash should then be labeled a negligent homicide, not an accident.”
      No, In the 1,000+ NTSB reports , I have never read where it “indicts” (sic) anyone for anything. Again, pilot error, even if that was the “indicment” is not negligent homicide. In any event, the conclusions of probable cause of a NTSB investigation are inadmissible in other legal proceedings per 49 U.S. Code § 1154 and Calif. case law shows courts fund them hearsay under Ca. rules of criminal procedure (California Code, Evidence Code – EVID § 452)

  3. This is going to be a painful example of “What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas”. A detailed investigation of what these pilots were doing during the previous 24 hours may reveal some answers. If they departed at 3 am they would need to be at the FBO to start the duty day at 0130. Was this departure time scheduled or a phone call surprise. In any case we know that none of us are at the top of are game during those hours, physically or mentally.

  4. Reports so far indicate all six were friends. Perhaps the two pilots were in town with the other four. No doubt we’ll eventually find out.

  5. I have research as to what caused the 2 planes to crash near French Valley Airport on July 4 and July 8, 2023. I have even written a book about my research titled: Science About How Tornadoes and Vortexes Form and How They Are Causing Planes To Crash (Including MH370). If you contact me, I can tell you what my research shows to have caused these 2 planes to crash.
    Ronald B. Hardwig, Professional Engineer
    Bloomington, Illinois

  6. Very saddening, as always.
    Perhaps one lesson to be learned: even after going visual on an approach into marginal visibility: if it is available, stay on the vertical guidance until over the pavement.

    • I read at least one witness account that said the vis near the scene was 5 feet in heavy fog.

  7. If the Pilot busted minimums in fog, criminal prosecution won’t be necessary. That is clear negligence that lawyers for the estates of the passengers will have a field day with. They may have been friends, but their estates are not the pilot’s estate’s friends.

  8. Sadly another smoking hole sitting in the sunshine. Too many low visibility/fog approach crashes will be located under a clear sky a few hours after the event….

  9. The aviation community constantly attemps to enhance safety measures through regulations, improved training programs, and advanced technologies, but the inherent risks associated with flying remain. RIP.