PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - The pilot who died Tuesday after a small plane crashed into a Palo Alto duck pond has been identified as 60-year-old W. John Spencer, by Angel Flight West.
The plane reportedly had departed from Redding. KTVU has learned the plane was part of the Angel Flight West fleet, flown by Spencer, who was a volunteer pilot.
The Santa Monica-based company provides free air travel for patients needing flights to get to doctor’s appointments in California, and 12 other western states.
Angel Flight West released the following statement,
“Angel Flight West is devastated and deeply saddened to share that we lost one of our volunteer pilot Angels yesterday, W. John Spencer. John was flying a patient and mother from Redding to Palo Alto when his plane crashed near the runway.
The mother and daughter are recovering. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of everyone on board. John began volunteering as a pilot for Angel Flight West in 2014 and has served more than 75 families with 125 flights to help them receive the care they needed. He will be greatly missed by the staff at Angel Flight West and his fellow volunteers. Out of respect for the families’ privacy and grieving, Angel Flight West is not sharing additional personal details at this time.
Angel Flight West delivers health and hope using donated flights to serve those with healthcare or other compelling human needs. In the air, Angel Flight West links volunteer pilots and commercial airlines with people whose non-emergency health needs require air transportation to access care.
On the ground, volunteer drivers ferry passengers to and from their departure and destination airports. The costs of all flights and drives are donated. There is never a charge for an Angel Flight West mission. Angel Flight West comprises more than 3,000 volunteer pilots and drivers covering the 13 western states. During our 35 years of providing service to passengers in need, and over 75,000 donated flights, this is the first accident occurring with an Angel Flight West passenger on board.”
Two women were on the flight survived and were taken to the hospital where they are listed in stable condition. They were headed to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
The single-engine Mooney M20 crashed in the Baylands near Palo Alto Airport as it was attempting to land around 11:10 a.m. Tuesday.
According to Michael Huhn with the NTSB, the pilot, later identified as Spencer, initially touched down on runway 13, but the landing wasn't right so he pulled up and went around for a second landing when he crashed. Huhn says the runway is relatively short.
According to Palo Alto firefighters, when crews arrived at the scene there was a person on the wing who was rescued. Another person was extricated from the aircraft.
He says he’s withholding the identity of the pilot who died, until the man’s family has been notified. On final approach, Spencer had some type of problem, prompting the tower radio if he needed help.
“The tower did contact the plane to ask if they needed assistance. Our dispatchers conveyed that to me. And the pilot replied they had it under control and that’s all I got,” said Palo Alto Deputy Fire Chief Geo Blackshire.
The cause of the crash is unknown. Investigators from the FAA and NTSB have flown to Palo Alto, and are trying to determine what went wrong. Two women who were passengers were able to climb out of the wreckage and onto a wing, where they were rescued by firefighters. Officials with Stanford Hospital say they’re both in stable condition. But employees at Angel Flight are reeling over the loss of life.
“It’s very difficult for us here in the office who worked with him and the patients he helped. A difficult time and situation for all of us,” said Olsen.
The Santa Clara County coroner will determine the cause of death. Palo Alto airport resumed normal operations a couple of hours after the crash.