Plane crashes near Mountain Center, killing pilot and causing fire

A Cal Fire helicopter picks up water to fight a half-acre brush fire sparked by a plane crash that killed a pilot Thursday afternoon near Mountain Center. Tony Ault/Valley News photo
MOUNTAIN CENTER (CNS) - A small plane crashed in rugged terrain southwest of Mountain Center today, killing its pilot.The aircraft was reported down about 12:40 p.m. near Bautista Road, within sight of the Bautista Conservation Camp in the San Bernardino National Forest, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.The circumstances of the crash were unclear, but according to reports from the scene, the plane went down along a jagged ridgeline.Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor confirmed the aircraft was a Piper Aztec, an older model dual-engine plane that seats four to six people.Gregor said National Transportation Safety Board investigators were headed to the crash site.A sheriff's helicopter was the first to reach the area, and the crew hov
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