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Report offers pilot’s last words before fatal Alameda plane crash

Submitted by on 1, April 11, 2011 – 2:26 pmNo Comment
Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

The pilot of a vintage plane that crashed in an Alameda park on April 3 shouted “emergency emergency” before crashing into the muddy banks of San Leandro Bay, federal aviation officials are saying.

Witnesses reported hearing those words on an air traffic control tower frequency shortly after Richard Manuel’s single-engine North American Navion A took off from Oakland International Airport, a preliminary report on the crash issued by the National Transportation Safety Board says. It says there were no further communications from the plane after that.

Manuel’s plane crashed nose-first in the mud near San Leandro Bay, off Doolittle Drive, at 3:37 p.m. April 3, about a minute after it was cleared for takeoff from runway 33. It came to rest about a half mile from the spot where it lifted off, the report says. It says the plane was partially buried in the mud and water and that it sustained major damage to its fuselage and wing assembly.

There was no flight plan filed for the local flight, the preliminary report says.

Federal investigators are looking into the cause of the crash that killed Manuel, 73. A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said the investigation could take months to complete.

Friends had said Manuel, who was president of the Golden Gate Navioneers, a group of Navion enthusiasts, was an experienced pilot who put a lot of effort into restoring the plane, which was built in 1947 and saw some service during the Korean War.

A memorial service for the Vacaville resident and businessman, a native of India who grew up in England, is scheduled to be held Wednesday.

“We are all in shock at the circumstances of his death but as I have time to reflect I realize my dad died doing what he loved in a country that he loved, leaving behind a legacy of positive memories for family and friends,” Manuel’s daughter, Sally, wrote in an online obituary for her father. “He will be missed and admired by many.”

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