Federal authorities investigating a fatal plane crash in Southern California said the aircraft struggled to gain altitude shortly after taking off from Camarillo Airport Oct. 8. The pilot and sole occupant of the plane, John Lewis, died in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is leading the investigation with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said in a preliminary report that air traffic control radioed Mr. Lewis to warn him that he was flying too low.

Mr. Lewis responded that the plane was having trouble climbing and that he would have to return to the airport and make a full stop landing.

Several witnesses told NTSB investigators that the airplane, a single-seat, single-engine BD-5, was flying low and made a right turn while descending rapidly to the ground. One of the witnesses reported that the airplane’s propeller was not moving. The BD-5 crashed in a field straddling the airport to the south moments later.

The NTSB said that a fire erupted in the bottom of the plane’s midsection but indicated that it did not consume the wreckage.

According to the Ventura County Star, the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Mr. Lewis died from a combination of smoke inhalation and burn injuries. Mr. Lewis was an experienced pilot who had flown commercial transport planes.

An NTSB crew removed wreckage from the plane crash to a facility for further examination. Investigators will examine the plane for signs of engine malfunction and other potential causes of the crash.

The FAA will look at the airplane’s maintenance and inspection records to determine if there were any compliance issues that could have contributed to the crash.

The Camarillo Acorn and the VC Star note that another deadly plane crash occurred at the Camarillo Airport in August when a Wheeler Express 2000 airplane from Salt Lake City stalled in the air and hit the ground about 750 feet short of the runway. The plane crash killed a Salt Lake City couple and left a debris field 130 feet long. The NTSB’s investigation of the crash is ongoing.

Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. Currently, Mike represents family members of victims in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

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