1984 Jul 15 - Auto Showroom

1984 July 19

CONCORD, Calif. --  A pilot veered to avoid a mid-air collision and guided his plane away from a crowded auto showroom before plunging into a shed filled with flammable materials that exploded, killing all six people aboard.

The coroner's office Sunday identified three victims from West Germany as Klaus Schroter, 45, the pilot; his daughter, Antje, 17, and a nephew, Jens Schroter, 18.

The others killed in the crash of the Piper Cheyenne turboprop Saturday were Werner H. Schenk, 47, his son, Werner Jr., 21, and Lizette Nevarez, 23, all of Santa Monica, Calif.

'We have conflicting reports as to the city the pilot and his family were from. Possibly it was Dortmund,' a coroner's spokesman said. 'The identities are so far tentative. We're checking dental charts.'

No one on the ground was injured, although three firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion while battling the fire in 102-degree heat.

Wally Funk, a National Transportation and Safety Board inspector called to the scene, said the victims apparently had flown cross-country to test electronic equipment aboard the craft and were flying from Santa Monica to the San Francisco Bay area for a sightseeing trip.

The plane was preparing to land at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord, 20 miles northeast of San Francisco, when it veered to avoid hitting another plane also approaching the field, said witness Jim Temple, who works at another auto dealership across the street from the crash site.

The second plane reportedly was piloted by a flight instructor who also veered to avoid a collision, Contra Costa County sherifff's deputies said.

When the Piper Cheyenne veered, it apparently stalled and slammed nose-first into a utility shed at Sheperd Pontiac, where flammable materials were stored, at about 12:30 p.m., deputies said.

Witnesses said the pilot appeared to guide the plummeting plane away from the larger main building, which had at least 20 people inside it at the time. The plane slammed into the smaller building, exploding into a ball of flame that destroyed the aircraft and the structure.

'It looked like the pilot decided not to land the first time and there was another plane coming, so he banked real sharply to avoid the other plane,' said witness Diane Lister, a saleswoman at Concord Toyota.

'Those guys at Shepherd were real lucky. Fifty feet more, and it would ave landed right in the showroom. They would have been gone.

The accident was the second fatal plane crash in Contra Costa County this month. On July 5, a single-engine Cessna brushed another light plane and crashed into the roof of a warehouse in Richmond, killing two police officers aboard.