Former Santa Monica Mayor Rex Minter died Thursday when the small plane he was traveling in crashed into the Santa Monica beach.

Minter was a passenger who along with the still unnamed pilot hit the waterline Thursday afternoon after a short flight originating at the Santa Monica Airport. 

“At approximately 3:17 this afternoon the Santa Monica Fire Department, Los Angeles County lifeguards and Santa Monica Harbor Patrol responded to a reported aircraft accident in Santa Monica beach at approximately the 1800 block of Ocean Parkway,” said SMFD Chief Danny Alvarez “Upon arrival they located a single-engine Cessna, it was upside down close to the shoreline on the beach.” 

Video of the crash shows the plane heading south along the water line before descending onto the beach. The plane’s wheels come down in about a foot of water and the tail immediately rises sending the plane over.

Multiple people can be seen on the beach watching the plane crash with some seemingly a few feet from the impact but according to Chief Alvarez said no beachgoers were injured. 

The plane was initially in the water but was dragged beyond the high tide line by emergency vehicles. Minter and the pilot were taken out of the plane alive and transported to local hospitals. Current Mayor Gleam Davis later announced Minter’s death on twitter.

“Sadly, former SM mayor and judge Rex Minter was the passenger in the plane. He has passed away,” she said. “I have spoken with his family and relayed the City’s condolences to them.”

Officials had no information on possible causes but said the plane had taken off from the Santa Monica Airport just minutes before it crashed. 

Flight tracking software shows the plane traveling north as far as Sunset Blvd before turning back. 

“We do have a report that they did report some sort of emergency to the tower at Santa Monica airport, but we’re still gathering information on the details,” said Chief Alvarez.

In a recording of the conversation between the pilot and tower, the pilot requested a return to the airport saying his engine was running very rough. The pilot then announced his intention to land on the beach, was warned doing so was at his own risk and then said he didn’t have a choice.

Minter was elected to the council in 1955 and served as mayor from 1963 to 1967. In his professional capacity, he served as a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court and was an avid pilot throughout his life.

The crash comes a few months after a fatal plane accident at the Santa Monica Airport. In September, flight instructor Christian West and student Jackson Nazario died during an introductory flight lesson.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), West provided Nazario with about 45 minutes of basic ground instruction before their flight. The plane then departed at about 3:51 p.m. and flew along the coast until it reached Malibu where it turned around and came back to the airport. 

When the plane returned to land, it briefly touched down before suddenly pitching straight up and then plummeting to the ground killing both men.

The preliminary report made no conclusions about the cause.

Past fatalities at SMO:

1990: A pilot became disorientated in dense fog and crashed into the ocean while attempting to land. 

1992: A pilot hit power lines at the end of the airport while trying to make an emergency landing due to engine failure. The NTSB report said the probable cause was water leaking into the fuel tanks due to a defect in the aircraft’s design and a lack of preflight inspection to uncover the problem before the flight took off. A passenger was also in the plane at the time of the crash. 

1993: A student pilot, his instructor and a qualified commercial pilot died when the plane fell from the sky during a steep turn and crashed into a residential area about two miles from the airport. The NTSB said the probable cause was the student pilot’s failure to maintain minimum airspeed in flight which resulted in an inadvertent stall/spin. Contributing to the accident were improper weight and balance, inadequate altitude, and inadequate supervision.

1994: A plane hit a utility pole and crashed into a residential garage after the pilot refueled as part of a cross-country trip. The NTSB said the pilot probably failed to select the fuel tank that contained fuel and a corresponding drop in airspeed while attempting to land resulted in an inadvertent stall. 

2001: Three people died when a pilot became disorientated while flying over the ocean. The NTSB report said the pilot was not familiar with the flying conditions and the crash was likely a result of pilot error. Contributing factors were the dark night, the marine cloud layer that restricted the pilot’s cruising altitude, and the pilot’s lack of familiarity with nighttime flight over the ocean.

2001: Two people died when a plane failed to become airborne during a takeoff attempt and vaulted over the end of the runway before crashing into a guardrail on an airport service road. The NTSB report found the pilot had failed to remove a gust control lock, a device that prevents flight control surfaces (ailerons, elevator or stabilator, or rudder) from moving when the plane is parked and subsequently abort the attempt in sufficient time. 

2006: Two people died when a plane lost power and crashed into the ocean. The NTSB said the cause was mechanical failure due to substandard maintenance of the plane. In addition, the report said use of a safety harness would have significantly increased the chances of survival. 

2009: Two people died when a plane lost power shortly after takeoff causing the aircraft to dive into the runway. The cause was found to be selection of the wrong fuel tank for takeoff and the pilot’s failure to maintain control during the return attempt. 

2012: A pilot died after striking treetops while trying to return to the airport shortly after departure. The pilot declared an emergency during his return but did not clarify what specifically was wrong. The NTSB found no mechanical faults with the craft or obvious pilot errors and the accident’s cause is undetermined. 

2013: Four people died when the pilot lost control of the plane following landing. The plane left the runway and hit a hanger that subsequently collapsed on the aircraft. The cause was determined to be the pilot’s failure to decrease ground speed and maintain control during landing. 

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...