The four medical aircraft victims in the California crash have been identified as 2 pilots and 2 flight nurses, who died on Monday after returning to their patient transport duties. 

According to the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office, they used’special fingerprinting methods’ to identify Learjet 35A pilots Julian Jorge Bugaj (67) and Douglas James Grande (45).   

Two flight nurses died during the crash. They were identified by Laurie Gentz and Tina Ward, professional associations.

Ward and Gentz have not been officially identified by the Medical Examiner’s Office. They said that Ward could be identified using dental records before the week ends, the other could require DNA testing, which could take many months.   

Aeromedevac Air Ambulance operated the Learjet 35A. The plane crashed into a powerline before it exploded on El Cajon street. There were no survivors. 

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All four victims of Monday's medical airplane crash in California have been identified as (clockwise) nurse Tina Ward, pilot Julian Bugaj, nurse Laurie Gentz and pilot Douglas Grande

The four California medical plane crash victims were identified in the following order: pilot Julian Bugaj (clockwise), nurse Tina Ward (clockwise), nurse Laurie Gentz (clockwise), and Douglas Grande (clockwise).

Ward was the wife of retired Oceanside Fire Chief Joe Ward, according to an Instagram post from the Oceanside Firefighters Association

According to an Instagram posting by the Oceanside Firefighters Association, Ward was married to Joe Ward who retired as Oceanside Fire Chief. 

Firefighters work to put out flames on the ground after a small jet plane crashed in unincorporated area in a town about 17 miles east of San Diego

Firefighters work to put out flames on the ground after a small jet plane crashed in unincorporated area in a town about 17 miles east of San Diego

A statement was posted by the company on Wednesday concerning the tragic crash. 

“It’s with deep sadness that I must announce the tragic loss of Aeromedevac Air Ambulance colleagues on December 27, 2021. It has been a difficult time for us to cope with the loss of these dear friends. They are undiscovered heroes who dedicate their lives to helping others in our community. 

“Our first priority is now to ensure the safety and well-being for all crew members. Air ambulance is a tight-knit program, united by its missions to help our patients. Our team’s commitment to helping others has always been inspiring. 

“We were honored and blessed to have been able to work alongside the crew members who have died, and we offer our sincere condolences for their loss to their loved ones.” 

Oceanside Firefighters Association listed Ward among the victims. On Tuesday, Ward posted on Instagram that she was the spouse of Joe Ward (retired local chief of fire fighting). 

The post stated, “It is with deep hearts that the Oceanside Fire Department, their fire department, and their family would like extend our deepest condolences for our recently retired Chief Ward and his family as well as all the family and friends who were involved in the Aeromedevac flight crew, N880Z,” 

Bugaj, 67, was identified by the San Jose Medical Examiner's Office through special fingerprinting techniques

The pilot leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren

Bugaj, aged 67, was identified through San Jose Medical Examiner’s Office special fingerprinting techniques. Bugaj, 67, leaves behind a spouse and children. 

Bugaj was described by relatives as an outstanding family man and grandfather, pictured above with tow of his grandchildren

Relatives described Bugaj as a remarkable grandfather and family man. 

Bugaj (right) was said to be a lifelong aviation enthusiast who joined the medical transport company a few years ago

Bugaj (right), a lifelong aviation enthusiast, joined the company as a medical transport specialist a few decades ago 

‘Chief Ward’s wife Tina, was a flight nurse on board of the aircraft that crashed last night in El Cajon. We are saddened and shocked by the tragic news.

Joe Ward and Tina Ward were married more than 10 years and have three children together.  

The International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEMTP) on Tuesday confirmed Laurie Gentz as one of the victims of the plane accident. Gentz is a registered nurse who has more than 30 year of experience and was also president of her local union. 

“The IAEP offers sincere condolences in the wake of the sudden, devastating loss of Local 162 President Laurie Gentz and her fellow passengers as well as the Learjet flight crew, early this morning,” the post on Facebook read. All who had the pleasure of knowing President Gentz and those who have benefited from their selfless efforts to organize labor in San Diego will miss her greatly.

An undated selfie was included with this post, showing Grande, Ward and Bugaj posing frontally before the doomed Learjet 35A. It had the tail number of N880Z. 

Ward was a veteran healthcare worker who previously worked as an emergency room nurse at Palomar Pomerado Health

She is pictured with husband Joe, right

Ward is a retired health worker and was previously an emergency room nurse at Palomar Pomerado Health. Right, she is shown with Joe. 

Joe and Tina Ward are pictured with their three daughter in this photo the mom posted on Facebook a day before her death

Joe Ward (left) and Tina Ward (right) are shown with their three daughters in this Facebook photo that Tina Ward posted a day prior to her death. 

CBS8 reports that the plane was carrying a medevac patient from Arizona to Orange County in California on Monday. It was heading back to Gillespie Field at the time it crashed. 

In the meantime, San Diego County Medical Examiner is yet to identify victims.  

According to her Facebook page, Tina Ward previously worked as an emergency room nurse at Palomar Pomerado Health. 

Laurie Gentz’s LinkedIn profile indicates that she was a part time flight nurse when she joined Aeromedevac Air Ambulance back in February. 

For nearly 10 years, she was also a Rural Metro critical care transport registered nursing nurse. She is survived by her husband and her three beloved pet boxers. 

Laurie Gentz was a transport nurse with more than 30 years of experience

She had only joined Aeromedevac Air Ambulance as a part-time employee in February

Laurie Gentz, a nurse transport specialist with over 30 years experience was Laurie Gentz. In February, she joined Aeromedevac Air Ambulance part-time. 

Gentz said in the description, “I have over two decades of critical care transport experience, with more than 30 years in the nursing field.” 

According to his LinkedIn profile, Douglas Grande worked for Aeromedevac Air Ambulance less than 3 years. He was a captain and first officer. Before that, Grande worked at an aircraft manufacturing company for 17 years. 

Julian Bugaj (or Jorge as he was known) was an aviation enthusiast who was also a certified instructor. He was, for many years, a pilot for Aeromedevac and transported patients.

Blanca Olmstead wrote that ‘he is truly a hero and loved every minute of what he did. He was not only a true life saver but also a wonderful provider for his loved ones.

Bugaj was survived by Alexis, his grown children, and several grandchildren. 

Becky Adkins was the daughter of the pilot. posted a moving tribute to her late father on Facebook, writing: ‘Jorge Bugaj was truly the greatest man i’ve ever know… he was the most generous, the kindest and the happiest and most positive person always! Jorge was a wonderful father and husband.. all women should be so lucky to have one like Jorge and he was by far the best Grandpa ever …’ 

Ward’s friends and colleagues have also been sharing their sorrow on Facebook. 

Ryan McBride said, “My heart hurts tonight.” I lost some incredible coworkers at …., which is an awesome company to work with. It was a pleasure flying with such a great crew! It’s because of ALL of you I gained confidence and began to love flying while performing my job as a flight paramedic while assisting Tina, Laurie and all of the other amazing nurses we have with us! Feeling so secure in the air!

Federal Aviation Administration officials stated that the Learjet plane carried four people, who were from Orange County. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, it is currently investigating the accident. According to the board, the final report including probable causes will take between 12 and 24 months.  

Doorbell camera footage shows Learjet 35A hurtling toward the ground. Then, a flash light explodes through the clouds as the Learjet 35A explodes in El Cajon California.

Luggage is removed from the scene as emergency teams worked to identify the victims on Monday night

The scene is cleared of all luggage as the emergency team worked on Monday night to identify the victims.

This map shows the route of the doomed Learjet plane that crashed on its way to Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California

This map depicts the exact route taken by the Learjet plane on the way to Gillespie Field, El Cajon (California), which was tragically destroyed in an accident. 

The Learjet 35A, similar to the one pictured above, was operated by Med Jet, an air ambulance company

Med Jet operated the Learjet 35A similar to that pictured above. 

Fire and smoke are seen rising above a neighborhood in El Cajon, California, on Monday night following the private plane crash

Scene of small plane crash in El Cajon

Following the crash of a private plane, fire and smoke were seen above El Cajon on Monday night.

The jet, flying out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, struck power lines before crashing in the area of Pepper Drive and North 2nd Street, at around 7.15pm Monday. 

According to National Weather Service data, Gillespie sky conditions were described as “fog/mist” at 6.55pm. captured radio communication between the plane and the runway, which indicated an abrupt occurrence of trouble.

The pilot cancelled an instrument approach to Runway 27. Instead, he requested to switch to Runway 17 with visual flight rules.

The pilot requested that field lights are turned on after the switch was made. He was then given new instructions. 

In that instant, however, something is wrong.

‘Oh, s***! Oh, s***! Oh, s***! No!’ No!  

Footage revealed the burning wreckage in the middle of a street, much of it damaged, and parts of the aircraft, including the landing gear scattered about the streets. 

It appeared that the car crashed, igniting in flames just outside of a home.

Although no fatalities or injuries were reported, about 2,500 residents were still without electricity due to the fall of the power line. 

According to Fire Chief Don Butz, “There’s very little of it left.” We weren’t able find survivors.  

Footage from a doorbell camera shows the moment the plane hurtles towards the ground before a flash erupts across the clouded night sky in El Cajon, California

A doorbell camera captures the moment that the plane is hurled towards the ground, before flashes erupt across the night sky at El Cajon in California.

A blast lights up the night sky over El Cajon following the plane crash seen on a Nest camera

After the crash of a plane, El Cajon’s night sky is lit up by a blast. This was captured on Nest cameras 

A cloud of smoke rising from the scene of the crash that killed everyone on board the plane

An ash cloud rose from the site of the fatal crash, which claimed the lives of everyone aboard the plane.

Parts of the jet are seen strewn across the road after it exploded in the residential neighborhood last night

You can see pieces of the plane scattered along the roadway after it burst in the residential neighbourhood last night

Several fire and police units worked to get the blaze under control by about 9 p.m. local time in El Cajon, California

Numerous firefighting units and police were involved in putting out the flames.

According to Mike Krugh, San Diego Sheriff’s Lieutenant, the plane crashed into a powerline and then exploded shortly afterwards. 

Around six San Diego Gas & Electric trucks were in the area working to get power restored amid constant rainfall.

Just before midnight, most customers were restored power, but around 350 individuals remained without it.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, volunteers from American Red Cross will visit people who are still without electricity in the morning and check on their health.

Police reported that the fire had been put out by 9pm.

Two chaplains appeared on the scene about an hour later.

Suzie Mercadante, a Lakeside resident was walking her dogs around 7.15pm when the jet crashed to the ground.

She told the Tribune how she saw ‘a blue streak and then a giant big orange ball,’ then ‘the blackest smoke just billowing out.’ 

Thomas O’Brien, who is just blocks from the spot where the plane crashed onto the street, said that he was on his couch at the time when the turbines of the jet roared across the nightsky.

Although he said he was used to hearing the planes as they fly near Gillespie Field’s runway, a lot of people describe the noise as extremely loud. 

O’Brien said to the Tribune that it was 10 times louder then normal. My walls started shaking as if there were an earthquake. My body froze. It was a real shock.

O’Brien claimed that he witnessed the jet blast from his back window, and it reflect off of his pool.

A few minutes later, he heard the sound of an explosion and the house went dark.  

Fire and smoke could be seen in video provided by a local resident. A Facebook livestream showed a car on fire in front of a house and debris in the street

A local resident provided video showing smoke and fire. One Facebook livestream captured a car setting itself ablaze in front of an apartment and debris on the streets.

No one on the ground was injured or hurt. Rainy conditions and the darkness have kept investigators from finding the full extent of the damage

There was no one hurt or injured on the ground. The investigators were hampered by rain and darkness from determining the full extent the damage.

Lauren Watling from Resident also stated that the plane approached her very loudly and she was left with only smoke and fire after it crashed.

According to NBC7’s account, “We heard the plane coming closer.”

“Normally, they are louder because we live near the airport. But it got really, really noisy and all of a sudden we thought it might have hit our powerlines above our home. However, we saw flashing bright lights and heard electricity run.

“And then, after that we heard the plane crash. “There was tons of smoke all around, so we ran to get out.” 

Authorities are still trying to determine the cause of this crash.  In a few weeks, the NTSB will issue a preliminary report.