Phoenix family identified in deadly plane crash in San Diego

PHOENIX - The San Diego County Sheriff's office have identified the family who died in a plane crash east of San Diego on Saturday.

Officials say 19 year old Katelyn Stern, 53 year old Jennifer Stern, and 65 year old William Stern died when their plane crashed in the Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve, north of Santee, CA.

"I'm in shock.  It's like I'm dreaming and reality hasn't really set in," said Kaleigh Boyle, friend.

Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the single-engine Lancair IV-P crashed under unknown circumstances around 10:15 a.m. about 3 miles north of Santee.

Gregor said the pilot had departed from Montgomery Field for Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix.

"The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate this accident," Gregor said.

At this point, it is unclear why the plane went down but witnesses have provided some clues.

"The plane was in some type of spin coming out of the sky," said San Diego County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Hale. "We don't know much more than that."

California Highway Patrol officer Robert Catano said a hiker in the area witnessed a small plane go down after hearing a loud boom.

"He attempted to hike to where it was but couldn't reach it," Catano said. "The hiker said it looked like the plane may have been doing stunts, and never came out of it."

Friends say Bill Sterns was an experienced pilot.  He and his family were always flying to their beach home in San Diego. 

"I wouldn't think twice about them flying. They would away go there for vacation or weekend trips," said Kaleigh Boyle.

Friends say Katelyn was a graducate of Arcadia High School and just started college at SMU in Texas.  She was studying Broadcast Journalism.

Stay with ABC15 and abc15.com for more details on this story.

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