Fourth victim of fiery plane crash in Riverside dies

RIVERSIDE – A mother of four who was severely burned in the crash of a twin-engine airplane in Riverside that claimed three lives has succumbed to her injuries, family members confirmed today.

Stacey Joanne Pierce, 46, died overnight at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. She had suffered burns to more than 90 percent of her body in the Feb. 27 accident.

“ It’s a sad day today,” wrote Sheryll Van Gelder, a family representative, in a post on Pierce’s GoFundMe page. “God needed another angel. Stacey Joanne Pierce is now at peace with her parents. Her injuries were severe and nothing but a miracle could’ve saved her. Please pray for her family.”

Pierce was pulled out of a bedroom in the Rhonda Road home struck by the Cessna 310Q she was flying in, triggering a blaze fueled by hundreds of pounds of aviation gasoline.

Killed in the crash were the pilot, 83-year-old Nouri Hijazi, his wife, 67-year-old Dana Hijazi and another passenger, 22-year-old Adine Farelas – all of San Jose. The lone survivor, Silvia Farelas, Adine’s mother, is
recovering at Riverside Community Hospital.

Both of Pierce’s legs were amputated in an attempt to save her life, according to published reports. It’s unclear whether she died as a result of post-surgical complications or the burns. According to the National Institutes of Health, the mortality rate for individuals with burns to over 70 percent of their body is about 69 percent.

Pierce had traveled to Southern California with the other victims to attend a weekend cheerleading conference at Disneyland, in which Adine Farelas’ younger sister took part.

The victims piled into Hijazi’s 42-year-old Cessna on the afternoon of Feb. 27 and were reportedly delayed by both the weather and trouble with one of the aircraft’s two engines. Witnesses at Riverside Municipal Airport stated that Nouri Hijazi, a certified flight instructor, had repeated difficulty engaging one engine.

When the plane finally got airborne about 4:40 p.m., light rain was falling and overcast conditions prevailed, though visibility was about 3 miles. The Cessna, en route to San Jose, plunged into the home in the 6400 block of Rhonda Road, near Beatty Drive, a half-mile east of the airport.

Two homes were destroyed in the post-crash fire. Two other properties were impacted but left intact. No one on the ground was injured, but a family of five was permanently displaced, along with another homeowner.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. A spokesman told City News Service that a preliminary report on the crash should be published within a few days.

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