A 28-year-old Irvine woman has been identified as one of the four passengers who perished while aboard a private jet that crashed at Santa Monica Airport Sunday evening.
Lauren Winkler was a fundraiser and executive with Save A Child's Heart, which provides free open-heart surgery in Israel to children from Africa and the Middle East.
Mark Benjamin, the 63-year-old president of Santa Monica-based Morley Builders, and his son Luke Benjamin, 28, were previously identified as two other crash victims. A Save A Child's Heart official said Winkler was the younger Benjamin's girlfriend.
They had spent the weekend in Idaho. Crash investigators believe the father was at the controls of the twin-engine Cessna Citation 525A that had departed from Hailey, Idaho. The jet veered off the runway in Santa Monica and slammed into a hangar around 6:20 p.m. Sunday, causing the structure to collapse and sparking an explosive fire that spread to two other hangars.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, but City News Service reports the probe has been delayed because of the federal government shutdown.
Besides four people, a dog and a cat died in the crash.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.