Organizations to help residents in aftermath of crash | February 19, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - February 19, 2010

Organizations to help residents in aftermath of crash

Nonprofits seek to heal mental, financial wounds of those impacted by plane disaster

by Sue Dremann

Local organizations are stepping forward to help East Palo Altans who are struggling after Wednesday's plane crash into a residential neighborhood.

The commute-hours crash, in which a Cessna 310R slammed into high-powered electrical lines along San Francisquito Creek and broke up over the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Beech Street, damaged four homes and several vehicles.

Three engineers from Tesla Motors, Inc. died in the crash but no residents were injured, according to fire and police authorities.

Some residents were left homeless and others were evacuated. At least two families lost their livelihood, family members said.

Shortly after the accident an American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter team opened a shelter at the East Palo Alto YMCA to prepare for a possible evacuation of the entire block, according to spokeswoman Melanie Finke.

By evening, an emergency vehicle was still available on Beech to assist residents in crisis and volunteers found housing for an evacuated family, she said.

Volunteer counselors also helped residents, many of whom felt a great deal of uncertainty after the crash, she said. Neighbors said an 80-year-old woman fainted after the fiery plane plummeted from the sky, thinking the end of the world had come.

And the owner of a day care facility whose adjacent home was destroyed was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment of high blood pressure.

Residents' nerves were again rattled at about 4 or 5 a.m. on Thursday, after one of the burned and damaged vehicles again caught fire, they said.

"Even if it doesn't affect them physically, it affects them mentally," resident Joy Wright said.

Witnesses to the crash, some of whom saw the fiery wreckage and bodies of the men who died, will not soon forget what they saw.

"There was fire everywhere," said Benita Brown, who was at home when she heard the first "boom" and ran to her window, only to see the plane explode. "The house shook. It felt like an earthquake."

Volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable homes for needy families, arrived at the crash site around 1 p.m. Wednesday to check on several homes the group has built on Beech. The Greater San Francisco chapter built its first home on the street in 1989, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Doettling.

Doettling said one home previously built by Habitat was damaged. The organization had not yet reached the owner of that home to determine if it can help with any repairs, she said.

David Foley, director of 2nd Mile, a Menlo Park faith-based nonprofit that has renovated homes and schools in East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, such as Cesar Chavez Academy, Ronald McNair Academy, James Flood School and Willow Oaks Elementary School, arrived on Thursday morning to assess the damage to four homes. Foley could not gain entry to the secured area but said after police allow access he would return.

Two homes on Beech were renovated by the organization, including the YoungLife house and another home that houses struggling young women with children, he said.

Foley said he wanted to see about renovating the home of Lisa Jones, the preschool owner.

Fifty percent of the home was burned after the plane's wing crashed into it and exploded. The rest of the home was water- and smoke-damaged — a total loss, according to Menlo Park Fire District Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

"We were going to renovate Brentwood Elementary School as our April project but we heard about the loss of homes here and said, 'We have to switch,'" he said.

Foley said the group receives its funding from private donations, many of whom live "up on the hill." Engaging with the East Palo Alto community has opened many volunteers' and donors' eyes and hearts, he said.

One victim of the crash who walked away was feeding his baby when the plane careened into a retaining wall and crashed in front of his rental home, he said. Juan Carlos Ramirez said he ran into the backyard with his wife and child.

"I was scared. I thought the house blew up," he said. But Ramirez worried that he might face more than temporary evacuation from his rental home. Both of the family's trucks were burned in the crash, he said.

"My dad makes the rent payments. He picks up scrap metal to make the rent payments," he said.

On Wednesday he was searching for answers about who would pay to replace the trucks. The family could not afford insurance on the vehicles, he said.

As the afternoon wore on, he looked on helplessly as emergency crews and aviation officials investigated the scene.

"We're getting hungry. There's no place like home, you know."

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Theresa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2010 at 9:46 am

Are there addresses or web locations for any of the organizations accepting donations?

Like this comment
Posted by Sky
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

I sure hope that Tesla pitches in to help these folks! How about new homes, new business, and NEW TESLAS for those who lost their cars!!! Share the wealth and earn back some karma.

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

The Mercury-News says: Web Link
Contributions can be addressed to The Jones Family/Eppie's Daycare Fund, California Bank and Trust, 1735 East Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto, CA 94303. Contributors can call the bank at 650-289-1900.

Like this comment
Posted by Grace
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm

how about a charitable donation or gesture from the relatives of the pilot?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2010 at 5:58 am

I made a contribution to the above mentioned organization today. How about the nouveau Riche who use this airport banding together and making a contribution of, let's say, a $100,000 each to the local EPA residents whose lives they have degraded for so long through permanent noise pollution and endangerment?

Like this comment
Posted by petercarp
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 20, 2010 at 6:27 am

petercarp is a registered user.

The plane crash on 17 February in East Palo Alto took the lives of the three people in the plane, all employees of Tesla, and destroyed a number of homes and vehicles on the ground. The purpose of this Google Group is to facilitate concerned members of the community coming together to provide support for all of those impacted by this tragic event. The group is open to anyone, posts are not moderated and it is up to each individual group member to decide how they can make a difference.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by reassurance needed for me...
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 20, 2010 at 6:52 am

I am a little concerned about something...I am already hearing noises of lawsuits for "pain and suffering" from nightmares etc.

I am very, very hesitant to donate anything to anyone if they are also going to try to get rich off this. In the end, these kinds of lawsuits cost all of us...

Replacing what is broken, making up lost income from lost business..ok.....paying millions for "pain and suffering"???? grateful nobody on the ground died or got hurt...and get over it.

Like this comment
Posted by petercarp
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 20, 2010 at 6:58 am

petercarp is a registered user.

reassurance needed for me states:" I am a little concerned about something...I am already hearing noises of lawsuits for "pain and suffering" from nightmares etc.

I am very, very hesitant to donate anything to anyone if they are also going to try to get rich off this."

My opinion is that we should act in good faith to show compassion to those who were hurt by this crash and not worry too much about any future lawsuits. For example, the man who lost his truck, which is his only source of income, needs to be put back into business now not sent to the courts looking for redress in two to three years.

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2010 at 8:35 am

Don't stop your compassion because some of some anonymous message board posting about unsubstantiated rumors. "Pain and suffering" sounds pretty far fetched to me. A home that has been burned down is a real and immediate loss.

Like this comment
Posted by Marty
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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