WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KRON) — NTSB investigators are looking into how two pilots communicated with each other before their small private planes collided mid-air in south Santa Cruz County.

Sheriff’s deputies confirmed Friday that there were no survivors of Thursday’s aerial accident. Three people and a dog were killed. No one on the ground was injured, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilots were flying a single-engine Cessna 152 and a twin-engine Cessna 340 when they attempted to land at Watsonville Municipal Airport at the same time, according to the FAA. Skies were clear and sunny.

The small airport does not have an air traffic control tower. For takeoffs and landings, pilots are not required to communicate with each other over the radio using a common traffic advisory frequency, NTSB investigator Fabian Salazar said.

“The airport is an uncontrolled airport. There is no tower here,” Salazar told reporters gathered at the airport. “We are working to get the radio communications that were occurring that day.”

Plane crash
One plane crashed into a hangar on Aug. 18, 2022. (Image by AIO FILMZ)

According to radio traffic recorded from Watsonville’s airport, it appears pilots were talking to each other in the minutes and seconds leading up to the mid-air tragedy.

One pilot can be heard saying, “Yeah, I see you’re, uh, you’re behind me. Gonna go around then ‘cuz you’re coming at me pretty quick, man.”

Fifteen seconds later, another person says over the radio, “Everybody, please be advised. There is an accident towards, uh, runway two zero. Please be advised on airport Watsonville. We have couple of accidents.”

Another voice on the radio says, “It seemed like they crashed into each other. The twin Cessna was on a long final approach and somebody else was on base turning final … the final approach. The twin engine Cessna didn’t see him and, uh, he crashed into the twin. The single engine Cessna went down and the twin Cessna, uh, rolled into the ground.”

Surveillance video obtained by KRON4 shows debris falling from the sky immediately after the planes crashed. A fiery explosion can be seen once the planes hit the ground.

The larger of the two planes crashed into an airport hangar building and caught fire. The smaller plane plummeted into a field next a neighborhood.

“Sadly, we can confirm there were three fatalities in yesterday’s plane crash,” the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office wrote Friday. “Our agency is focusing on notifying families of the decedents, and will release identification once all of those notifications have been completed. Our hearts are with these families during this tragic time.”

NTSB and FAA investigators continued combing through the two crash sites Friday afternoon and interviewed witnesses to pinpoint what went wrong. The airport is located next to a neighborhood, and several shocked residents saw the aftermath.

Witnesses are encouraged to email the NTSB at witness@NTSB.gov . The NTSB will release its preliminary investigation report in two weeks.

Watch the NTSB’s full press conference below: