AZ businessman, family killed in San Diego plane crash - FOX 35 News Orlando

AZ businessman, family killed in San Diego plane crash

Posted: Updated:
SANTEE, Calif. -

A home-built airplane that crashed in a San Diego County nature preserve killed a prominent Phoenix businessman and two members of his family on Saturday.

The owner was 65-year-old William A. Stern, Jr., according to a Federal Aviation Administration registration number released Sunday.

Medical examiners have identified the victims of the crash as 65-year-old Stern, his 53-year-old wife Jennifer Jane Stern and their 19-year-old daughter Katelyn Jane Stern.

The single-engine plane went down Saturday within Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve near Santee. Sheriff deputies say a hiker saw the plane fall from the sky and hit the hillside about 10 a.m. Saturday.

"The plane was in some type of a spin coming out of the sky," said San Diego County Sheriff's Sgt. David Hale.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the 4-seat Lancair IV-P had departed from San Diego's Montgomery Field en route to Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix. 

At the Stern's Phoenix home Sunday, friends gathered and laid flowers on the driveway. Stern is the owner of Stern Produce, with warehouses in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson.

The Lancair web site says the IV-P is one of a series of aircraft kits that are no longer in production. The FAA considers it an experimental aircraft, and it's reported that the type of plane had a "disproportionate" number of fatal accidents.

A friend says the Stern's had the plane for more than 6 years and flew to Montgomery Field often. They say the family had a second home there.

"It's surreal still, we still kind of can't believe this is real," said Jessica Michael, a friend of Katelyn Stern. "I've played softball with her since I was a girl, my dad was her coach she's been a great love in all of our lives."

Friends called the 19-year-old Katey.

"Katey was a gorgeous girl, she was always smiling, she was always so kind to everybody and I think the flowers here recognize how many people she touched," said Nick Giancola.

"We were just really lucky to have them in our lives in the first place," said Jessica Michael.

Statement by William A. Stern III

To our valued customers and colleagues,
On Saturday, Stern Produce Company lost a great leader. Our owner and president Bill Stern died in a tragic plane crash along with his wife and daughter. The accident happened just outside of San Diego as they were traveling back home to Phoenix.
While there are many questions left to answer regarding the accident itself, there are no questions regarding the future of our company.
With Bill's leadership and planning we will maintain our current high level of customer service, quality products and operations to our customers. We will continue to be a family owned and privately held company.
We lost a tremendous leader and friend and will honor Bill by continuing the vision, focus and traditions he established. While our hearts are heavy, we will continue in the direction set forth by Bill.
The Stern Family and all the team at Stern Produce thank our loyal customers and the entire community for their thoughts and prayers.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Video: FOX 10's Jill Monier reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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