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Pilot who died in crash of experimental plane identified

A 57-year-old man who died when his experimental plane crashed near Jamul earlier this month has been identified by the county Medical Examiner’s Office as Craig Cornford of San Diego.

Cornford crashed his plane — a Mustang II — less than 15 minutes after taking off from Gillespie Field in El Cajon early in the afternoon on Oct. 4, according to a preliminary investigation report by the National Traffic Safety Board. He was the only person on board and died on impact, officials said.

Citing air traffic control information, the NTSB said the plane departed Gillespie around 12:25 p.m. and crashed around 12:38 p.m.

After taking off from runway 27L, Cornford flew south toward Jamul and climbed to about 3,000 feet. He went about 13 miles before turning left near Lyons Peak in the East County. He traveled about four more miles, climbing to about 4,600 feet, before reversing course and heading back toward Lyons Peak, the NTSB said.

The airplane’s radar tracking ended at 12:38 near Lyons Peak, the NTSB said. Visibility that day was about 10 miles with few clouds in the sky.

A witness called 911 to report hearing “sputtering” from a plane in the air and a “loud bang,” the county Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Sheriff’s deputies on the ground and a crew in an ASTREA helicopter responded to the Jamul area immediately to look for the plane. They searched the area and eventually spotted debris on the base of a rock face adjoining Lyons Peak, officials said.

The plane hit in a remote area near Granite Oaks Road and Lyons Peak Road. Cal Fire crews had to cut through brush to access the remote crash site, officials said.

A final report on the general aviation crash could be completed in 12 to 24 months.

The Mustang II is a two-seat aerobatic plane with a bubble canopy and is built from a kit. The planes are considered experimental amateur-built aircraft, a NTSB spokesperson said.

On his Facebook page Cornford posted a photo of his plane, which had a picture of a horse stenciled on the tail and a mountain scene with pine trees stenciled on the lower body.

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