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Community Leaders Among 5 Dead in Long Beach Plane Crash

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Prominent real estate developers and a cycling advocate from one of Long Beach's founding families were among those killed when a twin-engine plane crashed shortly after taking off from Long Beach Municipal airport Wednesday morning.

Five men were killed, including the pilot, and a sixth passenger survived the crash with critical injuries.

Mark Bixby, 44, was an avid cyclist and civic leader, in addition to being a commercial real estate developer. He was a member of the family that purchased Rancho Los Cerritos in the late 19th century and developed the land into what would become Long Beach. Bixby Knolls is named for his family.

Real estate investor and retail developer Tom Dean and his business partner Jeff Berger also died in the crash. Dean's Studebaker Properties battled environmentalists in recent years over a proposed Home Depot Center on a large parcel of land that he owned near Los Cerritos Wetlands, eventually abandoning the plan.

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Bruce Krall was named as one of the fatalities and the pilot, who hasn't been named was the fifth. Real estate executive Mike Jensen, 51, was rescued from the burning plane by firefighters and remains hospitalized in critical condition. Jensen is president of Pacific Retail Partners where he was Bixby's boss, according to its website.

Bixby was a cycling advocate who regularly tweeted his rides. He rallied to ensure that bike lines would be part of the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement plan and contributed to a blog called BIKEable Communities. Bixby was recently interviewed by the CDMCyclist blog. He was "one of the leading forces" of Long Beach's biking renaissance, according to BikinginLA.

Bixby recently completed a 500-mile, four day bike ride from San Jose to Long Beach called the Tortuga Run and on March 13th tweeted for the last time: "Day 4 Tortuga 480, San Jose to Long Beach. Ventura home, 95 miles. Another sunny day and no mountain ranges."

The twin-turboprop Beechcraft King Air was headed to Salt Lake City as the men retreated for a ski trip to Park City but shortly after take off it circled and attempted to land on the runway before bursting into flames, according to the local Patch.com.

The news prompted an outpouring of condolences from the Long Beach community. The cause of the crash is under investigation.