A Yuma cardiologist died Monday when his small plane crashed in a densely populated San Diego suburb. Yuma Regional Medical Center confirmed that Dr. Sugata Das died in the crash.

“We are deeply sad to hear news of a plane owned by local cardiologist Dr. Sugata Das which crashed near Santee,” said Dr. Bharat Magu, chief medical officer at YRMC.

“As an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man, Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy. We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues and friends during this difficult time,” Magu added.

The plane crashed in a densely populated San Diego suburb Monday, killing at least two people, including a UPS driver, and leaving a trail of destruction that sent neighbors scrambling to help neighbors. At least two others were injured.

YRMC could not confirm that Das was piloting the plane when it crashed, according to Machele Headington, vice president of marketing and communications. More details were expected to be released on Tuesday, she added.

However, Das was an aviation enthusiast who owned and piloted a twin-engine Cessna C340, which he regularly flew between Yuma and San Diego, his family home, according to the Power of Love Foundation website, which lists Das as director.

The plane that crashed on Monday was a twin-engine Cessna C340, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

It is believed that the aircraft took off from Yuma and was headed to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, said Justin Matsushita, Santee’s deputy fire chief. It was unknown how many were on board, but Matsushita said no one would have survived.

Sugata and his wife, Sujata, were parents to two boys. Das has more than 37 years of experience in the medical field, according to Healthgrades.com. He practiced cardiology at Yuma Heart and Vascular Center and was affiliated with YRMC.

According to the Power of Love Foundation website, the cardiologist was born in a Bengali family, the oldest of four siblings in Pune on the western coast of India. After earning a medical degree in 1984, he received postgraduate training in cardiology and held positions as a faculty cardiologist at premier cardiac institutes in Pune.

Hoping to advance academically and professionally, Das and his wife moved to the United States. In 2004, Das relocated to Yuma as a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and established a cardiovascular practice.

In 2010, a fortuitous incident sparked an interest in general aviation, according to Power of Love. Das became an instrument rated pilot with a multi-engine rating. He also completed his commercial multi-engine rating and wanted to go all the way to airline transport pilot, according to Fallbrook Flight Academy in north San Diego County.

After the crash in Santee, witnesses described a retired couple being rescued from one of two homes that were destroyed in the largely residential suburb of 50,000 people. Ten other homes were damaged.

Several vehicles, including a UPS delivery truck, were also torched.

“Not to be too graphic, but it’s a pretty brutal scene,” Matsushita said as firefighters searched the smoldering ruins.

United Parcel Service of America confirmed one of its workers died. “We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the company said. “We also send our condolences for the other individuals who are involved in this incident, and their families and friends.”

The condition of the two injured wasn’t immediately known.

Michael Keeley, 43, ran barefoot outside when his home shook. He saw the UPS truck in flames and found two neighbors at a burning home calling through an open window.

With thick smoke inside the neighbors’ home and flames licking the roof, Keeley stood on a rock and reached through to grab the woman’s arm and help her climb out of the window. Her forearms were burned, and her hair was singed.

“She kept saying, ‘My puppy, my puppy,’” Keeley said.

Moments later, there were explosions inside the home. Neighbors knocked out fencing to rescue the woman’s husband from the backyard.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to go inside with my bare feet,” said Keeley, a probation officer.

Andrew Pelloth, 30, was working from home when he heard a whirring and then a huge boom.

“My initial thought was that it was a meteorite coming down,” he said. “I could hear it falling and then some kind of explosion.”

Pelloth lives across the street from the retired couple and saw the house and the delivery truck engulfed in flames. Mangled ruins of vehicles were in the couple’s driveway.

Erik Huppert, 57, rushed to the couple’s home after his house shook. He joined Pelloth to pull boards off the fence to save the husband, who was walking in the backyard.

The woman and her husband were burned on their arms but were still able to walk and talk, Pelloth said.

“Both were definitely in shock, but at least they were alive,” said Huppert, a military contractor.

No one was home at the other house that was destroyed, which sold only a month ago. Pelloth said he met the new owner Monday as he arrived to see the damage.

The crash happened about three blocks from Santana High School, which said on Twitter that “all students are secure.”

The crash site is a few miles north of Gillespie Field, a small San Diego County airport.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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