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Southampton man dies in California plane crash, officials say

Robert Stelling, who died in small aircraft crash on Saturday, was the owner of the Southampton Peconic Beach and Tennis Club.

The owner of the Southampton Peconic Beach and Tennis Club in Shinnecock Hills was one of two people killed in the fiery crash of a small plane Saturday in California, officials said.

Robert Stelling, 50, of Southampton, was among four people aboard the single-engine Beech B36 Bonanza aircraft, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office.

The identity of the other person who died has not been released, pending notification of next of kin.

Stelling’s wife, Dawn, and another person in the plane were not injured.

Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the crash happened shortly before 5 p.m. Pacific Time “under unknown circumstances” a half-mile west of Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego.

Monica Munoz, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the plane had left the airport and “reported an emergency just a few minutes after takeoff.”

The pilot attempted to land the plane in the schoolyard of Lafayette Elementary School and was unable to stop the plane fully, according to the medical examiner’s office.

The plane crashed into a house and “a fire ensued,” Holloway said, “but there were no injuries on the ground.”

According to Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, both the aircraft and the house caught fire. “The aircraft sustained substantial damage,” he added.

Holloway said the crash remains under investigation and it would take between 12 and 18 months to determine the cause. He added the plane had been taken to a secure facility for examination.

Stelling’s wife and other family members could not be immediately reached for comment and the beach and tennis club was closed for the season.

No information was immediately available about who owned the plane.

Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he grew up with both Robert Stelling and his wife, and the news of Robert’s death is “hard.”

“It’s a horrific story,” Glinka said. “I’ve known both of them since kindergarten.” He said they went to the Tuckahoe School together. “He was a very, very nice guy — very charismatic with a very good personality.”

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