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Photo shows moment 2 planes crashed in midair over Santa Cruz County

SF Gate 9/18/2022 Katie Dowd

A photo taken by a witness shows the moment two planes collided in midair over Watsonville, resulting in the deaths of three people.

On Aug. 18 shortly before 3 p.m., a twin-engine Cessna 340 with a pilot and passenger and a single-engine Cessna 152 with one pilot crashed while approaching Watsonville Municipal Airport. A preliminary accident report just released by the National Transportation Safety Board investigated the circumstances that led to the fatal collision.

According to the report, the Cessna 152 was practicing landing and taking off and had already completed four “touch-and-go” landings that day. The Cessna 340 pilot “reported he was 10 miles out and planned to descend for a straight in approach to runway 20,” the NTSB wrote. About a minute later, the 152 pilot, up in the air for more practice, told air traffic control he wanted to land on runway 20. He noticed the 340 bearing down on him from behind and radioed back in that he would go around “because you are coming up on me pretty quick.”

The NTSB said another pilot, flying over Watsonville airport, noticed the Cessna 340 “on the Cessna 152’s tail.” A witness on the ground snapped an image of the moment the two planes touched.

The 340 then “banked to the right,” but its left wing still hit the 152, causing both planes to crash to the ground. Carl Kruppa, 75, of Winton, California; Nannette Plett-Kruppa, 67, also of Winton; and Stuart Camenson, 32, of Santa Cruz, died in the collision, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office said.

Camenson’s family told local TV stations that he was the pilot of the Cessna 152. They said he was a UC Santa Cruz graduate with degrees in chemistry and earth sciences and worked at the university’s IT division. Camenson earned his pilot’s license in June 2020. 

More information can be found in the full NTSB report.

SFGATE news editor Amy Graff contributed to this report.

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