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Old 01-29-2008, 05:44 PM   #1
Rod Barajas
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 52
Question Anyone know someone at Corona Chevrolet

Would like to hear from someone in the know how this tragedy has affected the dealership...Also would like to know more about the ISM who was killed at his desk...
Originally Posted by By GENE GHIOTTO and PAIGE AUSTIN
The Press-Enterprise

The dozen or so businesses in the Corona Auto Mall and the surrounding area reopened Tuesday, two days after a midair collision over a car dealership claimed five lives, including an employee at a dealership.

The mood was somber Tuesday at Corona Chevrolet, where Earl Smiddy, 58, of Moreno Valley, died when a piece of crash debris struck him as he sat at his desk working.

On the lot, a salesman waited under cloudy skies for customers to show up. Inside the office, work was being done to clean up the area that was damaged when the aircraft debris pierced through the roof.

Greg Singh, general manager at Corona Chevrolet, declined to comment.

The four others who died in Sunday's crash have been identified as Paul Luther Carlson, 73, of Cerritos; Brandon William Johnson, 24, of Costa Mesa; Anthony Joel Guzman, 20, of Hesperia; and Scott Gayle Lawrence, 55, of Cerritos.

Across the street at Corona Nissan, the gates to the lot were closed Tuesday morning as some employees wandered the lot looking for crash debris. Employees found bits of plastic and aluminum believed to be from the planes that collided and several small chunks believed to be from an aircraft engine.

As a single-engine private plane passed overhead, Napoleon Espinoza, the service director, said they were fortunate at the Nissan dealership.

"We're lucky none of our employees got hurt," Espinoza said as he looked across the street at the Chevrolet dealership. "Over there, I'm sure the mood is different. They lost a coworker."

The sales department at the dealership opened later Tuesday but the service department remained closed until today, Espinoza said. The service technicians who showed up for work Tuesday were sent home. Meanwhile, a police forensics technician was on the lot collecting the remaining debris.

Grief counselors will be at the Nissan dealership today to help the staff get through the tragedy.

"A lot of people are just in shock," Espinoza said.

Salesman Manuel Tostado, on duty Tuesday afternoon at the Nissan dealership, said he is nervous about the aircraft that fly over and around the dealership throughout the day and concerned with air-safety issues involving the Corona airport.

At least 50 come over a day," Tostado said, referring to the number of small planes. "How many near-misses have happened in the past year?"

The crash brought back memories of the midair collision in March 1998 over western Corona. Three people died in that crash.

"When I first heard about it, I thought gee, it's been 10 years," Carol Hennebelle said, referring to the crash that showered debris on a condominium project and a golf course subdivision.

Hennebelle said that when she first heard about Sunday's crash, she wondered if the person who died at the dealership was a customer.

"Never in a million years would I think that it was someone inside a building," Hennebelle said.

By Tuesday morning, the National Transportation Safety Board had removed the wreckage, said board spokesman Wayne Pollack.

The wreck's investigators plan to begin a physical examination Thursday and anticipate releasing preliminary findings by late next week, he said.

Since Sunday, investigators have been inundated by phone calls from potential witnesses, he said. Unfortunately, those callers did not see or hear the planes just before or during the crash, Pollack said.

"We are still looking for witnesses who heard or saw the planes within seconds of the impact," he said. "Also we are looking for witnesses who had heard them on the radio."

Anyone who observed the two planes seconds before or during impact, should call 310-380-5654, Pollack said.

Meanwhile, Corona city staffers worked Tuesday to organize an airport-safety task force to address community and pilot concerns in the aftermath of the wreck, said Corona Mayor Jeff Miller.

"I anticipate that we are going to have up to a dozen people involved with the task force, Miller said. "I'll appoint two council members to oversee it and involve the Federal Aviation Administration, the NTSB, businesses in the community and pilots and pilot associations."

Miller said he has received many e-mails and calls after the tragedy.

"Mostly I'm hearing from pilots saying the airport is safe and that they value this airport," Miller said.

Reach Gene Ghiotto at 951-893-2115 or gghiotto@PE.com
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