After disappearing from radar screens while lost in bad weather, a small plane crashed yesterday in Joshua Tree National Park critically injuring the two occupants, according to Riverside County Fire Department and Federal Aviation Administration officials.
The wreckage of the Cessna 172 was reported at 10:39 p.m. Monday in such rugged terrain that it took firefighters nearly an hour to reach the survivors.
Both victims had to be extricated from the smashed airplane and then hoisted aboard a Riverside County sheriff’s helicopter. The patients were then transferred to air ambulances that flew them to a local hospital.
The two injured survivors apparently spent most of the day in the wrecked four-seater.
The drama began at 8:22 a.m. Monday when the flight instructor and student pilot radioed air traffic controllers in Palm Springs, saying they were lost in bad weather somewhere over Joshua Tree National Park.
They had taken off from Roy Williams Airport in Joshua Tree bound for Palm Springs. Air traffic controllers assigned the pair a special code for their onboard radio beacon, but controllers lost contact with the plane about 10 miles north of Palm Springs, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said last night.
Controllers contacted the Civil Air Patrol to conduct a ground and air search. Search aircraft heard signals from a crash-activated emergency radio beacon, but couldn’t spot the wreckage because of thick clouds from a strong afternoon storm, Kenitzer said.
The search aircraft later were grounded by the bad weather.
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