UPS driver killed in California plane crash had 'joyful laugh'; newlyweds lost home, report says

Co-workers observed a moment of silence Tuesday for the UPS driver who was one of two people killed when a small airplane crashed in a suburban Southern California neighborhood Monday.

Steve Krueger "was held in high regard and will be greatly missed," UPS said in a statement Tuesday.

"Those who knew Steve said he took pride in his work, and his positive attitude and joyful laugh made the hardest days a little lighter," the company said.

Krueger was "months away from retirement," KNSD-TV reported. Co-workers left notes, flowers, candles and photos on Krueger’s car Tuesday, the outlet reported. One photo showed Krueger water-skiing in his UPS uniform holding a package.

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The crash Monday rattled the community of Santee, a city about 20 miles northeast of San Diego. The twin-engine Cessna 340 careened into homes and vehicles, causing major damage, officials said. A federal transportation safety investigator was expected to arrive at the site Tuesday.

The airplane was owned by Dr. Sugata Das, who was also killed, according to a statement from Bharat Magu, the chief medical officer at Yuma Regional Medical Center.

A burned truck sits at the scene of a plane crash in a neighborhood Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Santee, Calif.
A burned truck sits at the scene of a plane crash in a neighborhood Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Santee, Calif.

"Our community has lost an exceptional physician, colleague and friend, a man who dedicated his life and career to caring for patients," Magu said in a statement. "Dr. Das was an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man."

Two other people were hospitalized with burn injuries, Deputy Fire Chief Justin Matsushita said. Video showed neighbors helping a couple escape through a window and the back fence of their home as the flames engulfed the structure.

Another video, filmed by a nearby home's security camera, shows the airplane falling into the neighborhood just before it crashed. Three homes in the neighborhood had "major damage" and two were completely burned, Fire Chief John Garlow told USA TODAY.

Among those who lost their homes were newlywed couple Courtney and Cody Campbell, KGTV reported. The couple was at work at the time of the crash and lost all their possessions, Breana King, a sister of one of the homeowners, told KGTV. The couple had also just finished remodeling the home, she said.

Authorities have not said what caused the crash. The plane was about a half-mile from landing at the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport when an air traffic controller told the pilot he was flying too low and needed to ascend.

"Low altitude alert, climb immediately, climb the airplane," the air traffic controller said in audio obtained by KSWB-TV.

Dr. Sugata Das
Dr. Sugata Das

Das grew up in India, according to a website for the nonprofit Power of Love Foundation, where he served as director. The organization describes itself as a "charity focused on developing innovative and cost effective solutions to address the HIV and AIDS epidemic."

Das worked as a cardiologist for 15 years, according to the hospital statement. He did completed his residency at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, trained at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan, and was an interventional cardiology fellow at the Arizona Heart Institute in Phoenix.

Das joined the medical staff at Yuma Regional Medical Center in 2005 after completing training as an interventional cardiologist, according to the statement. He lived in San Diego and commuted to Yuma.

Das, a licensed pilot, became interested in aviation in 2010 and owned two planes, according to the website. He leaves behind two young sons.

Contributing: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Plane crash in Santee, California: UPS driver, doctor ID'd as victims