Allison Rea’s voice cracked as she recalled the “sweetheart” of a man nicknamed Phil — the UPS driver killed Monday in the Santee crash of a small plane.

Rea, who knocked on neighbors’ doors amid fires in her neighborhood east of Santana High School and helped rescue a couple from one home, didn’t know his name. Tuesday, media reported the victim was Steve Krueger, a 30-year employee of UPS.

“He was always nice, always kind. Talks to the kids. Talks to the dogs,” the six-year resident said in front of her home on Green Fork Drive near the crash scene. “I feel terrible for his family because he was a wonderful human.”

She saw his truck stopped at a stop sign near Jeremy Street and Greencastle Street, where a blockwide debris field led to a power shutoff.

Also killed was the pilot of the six-seat Cessna 340A, which originated in Yuma, Arizona, but reportedly was not in communication with nearby Gillespie Field.

It was headed to Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in Kearny Mesa, said a fire spokesman.

Dr. Bharat Magu, chief medical officer of Yuma Regional Medical Center, identified the dead pilot as his colleague, Dr. Sugata Das, a father of two who commuted from his home in San Diego.

“As an outstanding cardiologist and dedicated family man, Dr. Das leaves a lasting legacy legacy,” Magu said in a statement about the doctor born in Bengali, India. “We extend our prayers and support to his family, colleagues and friends during this difficult time.”

It was unclear how many others were aboard the six-seat aircraft when it plunged to the ground, damaging at least 10 homes.

“We are cooperating with the responding authorities in their investigation, and we are respectfully deferring questions to the investigating authorities.”

It was unknown whether other victims had been on the plane or on the ground.

Rea said she and others helped pull a woman from a house that later exploded from jet fuel. The woman’s husband, “burned pretty bad,” was rescued from the back yard after a fence was knocked down.

Maria and Phil Morris, reportedly in their 70s, were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

The rescued victims are the subject of a GoFundMe drive, which had raised more than $9,000 by late Monday.

“Not only did they lose all of their earthly possessions, they also lost their beloved dog Roxie,” said the post. “Thank you to the brave neighbors who rushed to help, Maria and Phil were lucky to have been pulled from their home before it completely burned down. They are currently recovering from 3rd and 2nd degree burns at the hospital. We would appreciate any donations to help them rebuild their lives in their golden years.”

Another neighbor who helped in the rescue was Shawn Purvis, 48, who heard the engine boom while at nearby Hill Creek School. He could see smoke starting to come up.

“I jumped in my car and came over here,” he said. 

“I heard a voice in the back yard, [a] gentleman who lives there was saying: ‘I need to get out. I need to get out.'” Purvis looked over the fence, and asked if he wanted them to break down the fence.

He said yes. 

The resident was singed with heat burns and leg injuries. He was carried across the street. 

Rea said she ran down this road, and knocked on doors to get people out.

“I didn’t know if these houses were going to go next,” she said of the aftermath of the 12:15 p.m. crash — the plane coming down after flying over Santana High School. 

Amanda Nelson, an 11-year resident of the neighborhood, told Times of San Diego that the plane’s wing hit the UPS van first and then veered into homes.

“When we came up, the truck was already gone,” she said. Earlier, they yelled at the scene: “Is anyone in there? Is anyone in there?”

Nelson — who shot video of the rescue — was in her back bedroom when she heard a plane descending.

“It literally sounded like a movie,” she said. “I asked my husband: ‘Was that an earthquake?’ ‘No,’ he said it was a plane.”

They jumped up and started running.

Along with others, they pulled a woman out of a window and tried to look for her dog. They abandoned that effort for fear of an explosion.

“One of the neighbors heard her husband in the back yard and asked if he needed help, and helped to pull the fence down and got him out,” Rea said. “And he was burned pretty bad. He was a big guy so they had to help to get him out.”

After the couple were rescued, “we heard boom, boom, boom. You could hear the jet fuel going, and their house is gone,” Rea said. “Within 15 minutes the house is gone. We could have been right there, pulling her out.”

Michael Keeley, a probation officer who lives a block away, said the woman came to the window.

“I grabbed her arm and helped her step out of the threshold of the window and pulled her out,” he said. The woman, with skin bubbling from burns, cried: “My puppy, my puppy.”

Keeley said he told her: “Let’s get you safe first and then we’ll come back for your puppy.”

But then the booms sounded.

Fire crews arrived quickly, Rea said. “It definitely went over the high school, right over my house. There’s a wheel in the road, and pieces everywhere.”

In a statement to City News Service, UPS confirmed one of the dead was a UPS employee.

“We are heartbroken by the loss of our employee, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the statement said. “We also send our condolences for the other individuals who are involved in this incident, and their families and friends.

“We are cooperating with the responding authorities in their investigation, and we are respectfully deferring questions to the investigating authorities.”

It was unknown whether other victims had been on the plane or on the ground.

Santee Deputy Fire Chief Justin Matsushita told a news conference that a gas leak in a home also challenged dozens of firefighters on the scene.

Officials at the high school said “all students are secure” following the crash.

Reports from the scene indicated that part of the plane ended up in one of the heavily damaged homes, while the engine landed in another.

Santee city officials said power had been turned off in the immediate neighborhood of the crash, with the debris field spanning roughly a city block.

Administrators at Santana High School instituted a “secure campus” status as a precaution and deputies closed Jeremy Street and North Magnolia Avenue between Mast Boulevard and Second Street while emergency crews worked to extinguish the fires and mitigate other damage caused by the plane crash, officials said.

The school had returned to normal operations by midafternoon, with students being “released for lunch or dismissal, if they do not have any other classes today,” according to a campus advisory.

The Red Cross established an evacuation center at Cameron Family YMCA on Riverwalk Drive in Santee for residents forced from their homes due to the crash.

The Santee Fire Department evacuated residents of the neighborhood at Jeremy and Greencastle streets.

Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement “Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals involved in the plane crash in Santee. A tragedy like this one can have a jarring effect on a community, and I  want the people of Santee to know their county government is here to support them. Our Office of Emergency Services is activated, monitoring the situation, and stands ready to provide any needed support to the City of Santee.” 

Of the UPS driver, neighbor Rea said: “With COVID, we’re all ordering all the time. I leave my dog out too much and he’s like: ‘Your dog’s out here, and here’s your package.’ … I will never forget his face.” 

Nelson said: “We may not know his actual name, but he was around here all of the time. I definitely want to find out who he is so [my daughter, who called him Phil] can attend services.”

Said rescuer Keeley, hailing a sense of community bigger than he thought: “I’m just proud of my neighbors. People came out and helped out… they stepped up and did what we needed to do.”

He said he didn’t know the neighbors on the street.

“Now I do,” he said. “I love it.

Updated at 11 a.m. Oct. 12, 2021

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