Two men were killed in a glider plane crash in Jacumba on Saturday, June 29. In an exclusive interview, NBC 7's Lea Sutton speaks Rolf Schulze, the former president of a local glider club who knew the victims of the crash.
The county medical examiner's office has just released the names of the two men killed in a glider plane crash in San Diego's Jacumba area Saturday.
According to the report, Richard Noble, 63, and Martin Rothwell, 54, were killed in the crash.
The report says the glider was towed and the towline was released at about 100 feet. For unknown reasons, the glider lost control, rapidly decelerated and struck the ground.
The FAA said the accident happened just before 12:30 p.m. near the Jacumba Airport (pictured below) in the 45000 block of Old Highway 80, about 75 miles from San Diego.
An Allstar PZL glider was involved in the crash.
Law enforcement officers surrounded the plane following the crash and blocked off the site.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will now take the lead on the investigation into the fatal accident.
According to the FAA, the glider is registered to the Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California (AGCSC).
According to the AGCSC website, the glider that crashed is a relatively new aircraft called a “Perkoz” that was put into production in 2011. The aircraft seats two people and has a wingspan of 65.5-feet, with a maximum airspeed of 149 mph.
A person who witnessed the crash but wished to remain anonymous told NBC 7 that the deadly accident happened as the glider was taking off.
Gliders do not have engines, and the club uses a winch and cable assembly at the airfield to launch the plane.
In this particular case, the glider plane was launched with a winch and cable assembly, and it separated from the tow cable at an altitude of around 100 to 300 feet, the witness said. It launched with its nose high, then immediately spun to the right and into the ground.
NBC 7 spoke exclusively with Rolf Schulze, the former president of the AGCSC Saturday afternoon, who said that if the plane separated from the tow cable at that altitude, that’s nearly 1,000 feet short of the normal release altitude of around 1,200 feet at Jacumba field.
“We call them ‘sailplanes.’ They are propelled primarily from being flown in thermals or other rising air and since they do not have an engine, the aircraft is purely designed to be flown whenever there is sufficient lift for the airplane to stay in the air,” explained Schulze.
Understandably so, Schulze said he was very distraught over the accident.
"I'm deeply saddened because I'm afraid both victims are people I know quite well and I'm even more afraid that it may have been one of the flight instructors that I know very well,” Schulze told NBC 7.