Plane Crashes into Ralph Dunlap Elementary in Orcutt, Killing Pilot

If Not for Pandemic Closures, Children Would Have Been on Campus

Credit: Daniel Bertucelli | @SBCFireInfo

[UPDATE 5/22] The Sheriff-Coroner’s office has identified the pilot as 38-year-old Tigran Garabedyan of Burbank. He was flying the plane solo at the time of the accident.

[ORIGINAL STORY] A plane crashed into the basketball courts at Ralph Dunlap Elementary School in Orcutt Wednesday morning, killing the pilot.

The explosive collision from the single-engine civilian aircraft hitting the concrete sparked a fire, which is now extinguished, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Daniel Bertucelli. He said that more details about the crash and the victim are unknown at this time.

The crash could have potentially been even more tragic. Because of the state’s shelter-in-place orders, schools have been closed for the past three months and students have continued their lessons remotely. If not for this, the crash might have taken more lives.

Normally, the elementary school’s 4th-6th grade students go to recess at 10:30 a.m. The plane crashed onto the school’s property, nearby the playground and basketball courts that the students play at during recess, at approximately 10:45 a.m. — when the students would still be at recess. 

Bertucelli confirmed that the plane’s pilot is the only death, although his identity is still unknown. 

From what was still discernible on the now crunched-up aircraft, the plane’s N-number (registry number) shows that the aircraft belonged to an Austin Ma of Los Angeles, an apparent oncologist. The single-engine airplane was a Cirrus SR22, which come equipped with a ballistic parachute.

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