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Plane crash kills 2 in Petaluma

Giorvi Alvarez was sitting Sunday in front of his house about 4 p.m. when he heard a single-engine plane sputter after taking off from the next door Petaluma Municipal Airport.

“The engine started failing,” Alvarez, 39, said. “It let out three or four ‘pop-pops.'?”

The plane turned around and headed back toward the airport when it suddenly crashed about a thousand yards east of the airport on East Washington Street near Old Adobe Road, Alvarez said.

Both the pilot and passenger were killed.

“The engine stopped and it went nose down,” said Alvarez, who jumped into his car and raced a quarter-mile down Parkland Way to the crash site, joining several Rooster Run Golf Course employees who tried to render aid.

The engine landed on the north side of the street, while the rest of the aircraft slid across to the south side.

Petaluma police Lt. Brian Miller said multiple witnesses called 911 after seeing the plane come down.

“Our initial reports tell us that it took off from our airport and may have been attempting to return,” he said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and Petaluma police and firefighters responded to the crash.

Authorities have not released their identities.

Alvarez described the two people in the plane - a man and a woman - as being in their 50s or 60s.

According to Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was a Van's RV-6, a two-seat, single-engine, low-wing homebuilt airplane sold in kit form.

A witness, Sean O'Brien, described in an email that the plane took off from runway 29.

“As he (pilot) banked into the turn, his right wing went in to full stall and the RV-6 started to spin in to the ground,” O'Brien wrote. “The pilot almost recovered from the spin as he hit the golf course fence and plowed his RV-6 into the road.”

The cause of the crash is unknown, Petaluma Fire Battalion Chief Mike Medeiros said in a statement.

Miller said officials from the FAA and the National Transportation and Safety Board were on the scene investigating. The NTSB could not be reached for more details Sunday night.

Petaluma police closed the area of East Washington from Adobe Road to Executive Drive for several hours to deal with the crash's aftermath.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

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