A dramatic recording captured the harrowing final moments of a plane that crashed in California, killing two people — with an air traffic controller repeatedly warning the pilot that he was too low and veering off course.
Dr. Sugata Das, a cardiologist at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona, was piloting a Cessna 340 from Yuma to the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego when he crashed into a house in the suburb of Santee.
Das and a UPS driver in the neighborhood were killed in the Monday crash, which also left two other people on the ground hurt.
Before the tragedy, an air traffic controller instructed the pilot to join the final approach and to maintain 2,800 feet until he was established on the localizer, which means he would be receiving a usable navigation signal on the instrument landing system.
Things quickly appeared to go awry as the communication suggested some hesitation on the pilot’s part and consternation by the controller.
“Cleared to ILS Runway 28 Right, circle to land on Runway 23,” he is heard saying in the audio posted by LiveATC.net.
“Ah, cleared to ILS 28 Right … ahhh …. for Runway 23,” Das replies.
“Yes, sir, descend and maintain 2,800 until established on the localizer,” the controller says before informing the pilot of a C-130 plane in the vicinity. “Looks like you’re drifting right off course. Are you correcting?”
Das responds: “Correcting.”
But the controller then adopts a more urgent tone.
“22G, you’re not even tracking the localizer. I need you to fly … actually, cancel approach clearance, climb and maintain 3,000,” he says. “Low altitude alert. Minimum vectoring altitude in your area is 2,800. Climb and maintain 3,800.”
Seconds later, he instructs the pilot to “climb immediately, maintain 4,000. … OK, it looks like you’re descending, sir. I need to make sure you are climbing, not descending.”
Das replies that he is climbing and is at 2,500 feet.
“Low altitude alert! Climb immediately! Climb the airplane! Maintain 5,000, expedite climb! Climb the airplane, please!” the controller pleads.
“Just level off the plane and the heading and climb the airplane up to 5,000 when you can, sir.”
He then tells the pilot that he was descending again — and another pilot interjects: “Tower, that aircraft just crashed about a half-mile in front of us into the houses.”
Das, a father of two young sons who lived in San Diego, commuted back and forth to Yuma, according to a website for a nonprofit organization where he served as director.
“Our community has lost an exceptional physician, colleague and friend, a man who dedicated his life and career to caring for patients,” Dr. Bharat Magu, chief medical officer at the Yuma hospital, said in a statement to Fox 5.
“Dr. Das was an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man. He was a highly disciplined physician who thrived on each opportunity to improve care for heart patients.”
Das, who studied medicine in India, joined YRMC in 2005 after completing his training as an interventional cardiologist, officials told the outlet in a statement.